Allegiant Air expanded its service at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, announcing today that it will begin summertime flights to the Florida Panhandle city of Destin.
The first of those flights takes off from XNA on June 6. Daniel Meier, Allegiant's airports manager, announced the Destin service at a morning press conference.
The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport is one of Allegiant Air’s primary destinations along with Orlando, Las Vegas and several Florida cities. The low-cost carrier's Destin service includes flights from more than 20 U.S. cities, commonly on a twice-a-week basis. Flights from Northwest Arkansas will occur each Wednesday and Saturday.
“Allegiant is excited to offer Bentonville-area travelers their only ultra-low cost, nonstop option to visit Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast,” said Lukas Johnson, Allegiant senior vice president of commercial.
For the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, Destin becomes its 16th nonstop destination and its first new air service announcement since American Airlines announced it would make regular flights to Washington Reagan. Those flights started in April last year.
“Northwest Arkansas is a rapidly growing and economically diverse region of this country,” said Airport Director Kelly Johnson. “We appreciate the fact that our partners at Allegiant recognize the need for this service, and we thank them for their continued support and commitment to our community.”
While Allegiant’s expanded service at XNA is likely to be helpful in reducing fares to Florida, Northwest Arkansas needs daily low-cost air service to drive down fares to the majority of the passengers' final destinations.
High fares are what drove the Northwest Arkansas Council to start working more closely with the airport to attract daily low-cost air service. XNA passengers and the businesses who pay their fares for business travel spend tens of millions of dollars each year because fares are excessive.
Records kept by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics show the average round-trip fare from XNA during 2017's third quarter was $534. The national average was $336 during the same time period.
That quarter wasn’t an anomaly. Federal data shows the 2016 average fare at XNA was $509 compared to a national average of $358.
It’s not known how much Allegiant’s non-daily service to Destin will impact XNA fares. A 2015 analysis did show the availability of Allegiant’s flights increased how many people traveled from XNA to both Orlando and Las Vegas.
It also showed the competition created by Allegiant may have factored into an overall fare decrease to those two destinations between 2009 and 2015. Fares to Orlando and Las Vegas decreased soon after Allegiant started flying the route and stayed down.
Fares to Orlando were about 30 percent less expensive in 2015 than they were in 2009. Las Vegas fares were 27 percent less than they were prior to Allegiant's arrival at XNA.