XNA continues to see growth; plans $20 million Treasury investment

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,737 views 

Passenger traffic at Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill continues to rise this year and is in line with 2018 levels, officials said.

In a special-called XNA board meeting Monday (April 18), CEO Aaron Burkes projected 2022 enplanements, or passengers flying out, to range between 800,000 and 850,000. He based this estimate on aircraft seating capacity being down 12% from 2019 levels.

In March, enplanements increased by 86.6% to 63,695, from 34,139 in March 2021. Through the first quarter, enplanements increased by 106.9% to 161,385, from 77,999 in the same period last year.

XNA officials continue to use 2019 enplanements as a benchmark for comparison. March 2022 enplanements were down 9.6% from March 2019. April 2022 enplanements are projected to be down 9.1% from April 2019.

“We’re solidly in the 2018 numbers now,” Burkes said.

Enplanements rose to 922,533 in 2019, from 788,261 in 2018. In 2021, enplanements were 621,942, up from 360,133 in 2020.

By comparison, March enplanements at Clinton National Airport in Little Rock rose by 41.9% to 77,045, from 54,300 in March 2021. Over the same period, enplanements at Fort Smith Regional Airport increased by 34.2% to 5,621, from 4,187.

In other business, the XNA board of directors agreed to a $20 million U.S. Treasury investment. Leigh Ann Biernat, senior vice president of Stephens Inc., said the projected $450,000 in investment income is expected by the end of 2023. Regions Bank is to be the investment custodian.

Also, airport officials approved purchasing 38.4 acres southeast of the terminal for $865,000. The land is located along the path of a planned second runway.