HIGH – Northwest Arkansas National Airport had a good 2022, and preliminary passenger counts at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint for January are encouraging airport staff about their 2023 outlook.
“We are seeing continued strong demand for travel locally and nationally,” said Aaron Burks, CEO. “We ended 2022 as our second best year in terms of ridership. This month’s TSA throughput data shows we can beat 2019 January figures.”
Official figures show that there were 836,195 aircraft in 2022. This is 9.4% less than in 2019, but 34.4% more than in 2021, when there were 621,942 aircraft.
Airport officials are using 2019 as a yardstick because the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out travel that began in early 2020. The industry is still working to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Northwest National had a record year in 2019 with 922,553 aircraft. In 2020, the number of aircraft decreased by 61% to 360,133.
The airport has historically had more business travel than tourism, Burkes said, but that has reversed during the pandemic and both are now on the rise.
“There seems to be very high demand from both business and leisure travelers right now. The high demand for vacations is a continuation of the post-COVID boom in leisure travel, but the recent rise in passenger numbers appears to be mainly driven by a recovery in business travellers. “, Burks said. “All indications are that business travelers are back in full swing in northwest Arkansas – perhaps very close to 2019 levels.”
Frances Mayo, owner of Around the World Travel in Springdale, said she also sees strong demand from tourists.
“Orders are on the rise. The biggest demand I see is in Europe, especially for river and ocean cruises, and all inclusive in Mexico and the Caribbean,” Mayo said. “Prices are 25-30% higher than in 2019 before the pandemic, but people are still buying.”
Burks said airlines serving Northwest National continue to add destinations.
“Strong demand is borne out by the fact that most flights to and from Northwest National are full,” Burks said.
He noted new opportunities next month with American Airlines’ daily non-stop flights to Phoenix, as well as new Breeze flights to Orlando, Florida, Phoenix and Charleston, South Carolina. , he said.
Low-cost carriers continue to gain market share in Northwest National, airport officials said. In 2022, Allegiant, Breeze and Frontier accounted for 19.8% of aircraft. This is up from 18% in 2021. In 2018, low cost carriers accounted for 5% of aircraft at the airport.