An effort is under way to bring low cost carriers in to the airport, according to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Executive Director Scott Van Laningham.
Some of the low-cost carriers include Spirit, Virgin America, Frontier, Jet Blue, and Southwest.
The Northwest Arkansas Council conducted a survey asking the region’s largest employers about their travel needs, which represent 63,000 trips from XNA in 2012.
The survey shows most people drive to airports out of the area to get cheaper airfare.
“We found out that their leakage is 39% so that means that basically 4 out of every ten people in our area that fly go somewhere else, of those 2/3 are going to Tulsa,” said Rob Smith, Northwest Arkansas Policy Specialist.
XNA currently offers services to 15 destinations on four network carriers and Allegiant.
Van Laningham said low-cost carriers look for airports that have high number of travelers.
“We’re on the bubble in terms of the total passenger count, the low cost carriers tend to look for larger, they have a fixed number of airplanes they look for the places that are more likely to fill up that airplane,” said Van Laningham.
One move that might raise the count is American Airlines' daily non-stop flights to Los Angeles beginning in late August.
“With the spike in fuel prices three years ago they discontinued the direct service so, they are bringing that back,” said Van Laningham.
According to the survey, in the first nine months of 2012, XNA passengers paid $529 per roundtrip. The average national fare was $375 ($154 more at XNA)
“You take that $154 dollar difference and you multiply that by all the people that paid to fly in 2012, they spent an extra $83 million dollars, it’s an astonishing amount of money,” said Smith.
“We are a high business travel market, the business traveler tends to make their plans at the last minute and they pay a premium for those tickets,” added Van Laningham.
Smith estimated reducing the average faire $20 per roundtrip ticket would save XNA passengers about $10.8 million.