A $500,000 federal grant will help Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) restore nonstop daily service to San Francisco.
XNA was one of 25 airports from 20 states to receive grants from the Small Community Air Service Development program of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The federal department awarded nearly $17 million in assistance through the program, which aims to help small communities address air service and airfare issues.
Andrew Branch, chief business development officer for XNA, said losing nonstop flights to San Francisco in early 2020 was one of the biggest setbacks the airport incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re determined to get it re-established because it’s so important to our business community,” said Branch. “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.”
Branch said since the nonstop service was halted, XNA saw a dramatic decrease in people flying to San Francisco at all. The route averaged 80 passengers per day in 2019, he said, but only 26 people per day made the trip in 2021.
The daily service to San Francisco International Airport is set to resume in Spring 2023 through Breeze Airways, according to a federal document. United Airlines previously provided the service.
The federal grant money can be used as a revenue guarantee and for marketing to support the restored nonstop service, the document shows.
Fort Smith Regional Airport was the only other facility in Arkansas to receive funding through the program. The airport received $855,000 to support nonstop daily service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport or another hub in the northeastern United States. The Fort Smith airport currently only has service to Dallas after it recently lost service to Atlanta, according to the document.