The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport broke its record for the number of passengers boarding flights for the fourth year in a row.
The airport announced its record enplanements on Tuesday, saying 2017 saw 725,284 passengers depart from XNA. That was a 3.7 percent increase over 2016, and it was the first time the airport eclipsed 700,000.
The consistent growth over nearly two decades has led to regular expansions of the airport's terminal, its runway and taxiways and its car parking areas. Among the biggest projects occurring right now is the four-story parking deck that will be complete later this year.
Since opening in 1998, XNA just three times in 19 years has experienced an air travel decrease from the previous year. All three downturns could be tied to national economic concerns.
Year 2017 also provided the airport with the busiest month in XNA’s history. The 72,202 passengers in June was the first time the airport exceeded 70,000. The previous high was in June 2016.
American, which carried 52 percent of the airport’s commercial passengers in 2017, has remained the airport’s primary air service provider since the airport’s opening. Delta (23 percent of 2017 passengers), United (20 percent) and Allegiant Air (5 percent) carry everyone else.
“We’ve always been an airport with impressive service, and that started when American Airlines agreed to serve XNA right from its opening,” said Kelly Johnson, XNA’s airport director. “Since that time, Delta, United and Allegiant have each made strong air service commitments to this market, and that’s caused our growth to continue.
“Yet, none of our growth would be possible without the decisions made each day by Northwest Arkansas residents, the companies that rely on XNA as their go-to airport, and the members of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority Board of Directors who continue to think big in terms of XNA’s future.”
The Airport Authority is actively involved in new investments that will lead to better and better service at XNA. In addition to that four-story parking deck, the airport authority in December agreed to add gates in the Alice L. Walton Terminal. Those two gates in the B Concourse will create new parking positions for planes, making it more efficient for the airlines to board passengers.
The commercial airlines providing service at XNA fly nonstop to 15 cities. They make 38 departures from the airport on a typical day. American, Delta and United will all be increasing the frequency of flights in the spring, changing the typical day to about 40 departures.