2 Arkansas airports to use grant money for nonstop daily flights

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 8,872 views 

Two of the largest commercial airports in Arkansas received a combined $1.35 million to support nonstop flights from Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith.

Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) in Highfill plans to use a $500,000 federal grant to restore nonstop service to San Francisco, according to a Wednesday (Aug. 10) news release.

On Aug. 3, XNA and 24 other airports received grants from the Small Community Air Service Development program of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Losing nonstop flights to San Francisco in early 2020 was one of the main setbacks we saw due to COVID-19. We’re determined to get it re-established because it’s so important to our business community,” said Andrew Branch, chief business development officer for XNA. “What we actually saw when it did operate is people loved having the nonstop each day, and it provided value to both the business travelers and the leisure travelers who wanted to get to the Bay Area.”

According to federal documents, the grant money will be used for a revenue guarantee and marketing for nonstop flights to San Francisco International Airport. Breeze Airways would provide the flights, beginning in spring 2023. United Airlines previously provided the nonstop flights.

“New flights by an ultra low-cost carrier would also exert downward pressure on airfares, which are above the national average,” the documents show. “Breeze Airways filed a letter in support of the project, and the community will provide additional funding.”

Since nonstop flights to San Francisco ceased, the number of XNA passengers flying to San Francisco declined. In 2019, the route had about 80 passengers per day. In 2021, 26 people daily made the trip to San Francisco.

The federal documents also show that Fort Smith Regional Airport received an $855,000 grant from the Small Community Air Service Development Program to support daily nonstop flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport or another hub in the northeastern United States. The money will be used for a revenue guarantee and marketing to establish and support the flights.

According to the documents, the regional airport has only one destination, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas., after Delta Air Lines ceased flights to Atlanta. “The community is relatively isolated and has airfares that are higher than the national average,” the documents show. “It is also providing significant local funding for the project. American Airlines has filed a letter in support of the proposal.”