Airport director Kelly Johnson says XNA is hosting the event to showcase our airport and region to the airlines.The agenda includes a half-day meeting at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and dinner at 21c Museum Hotel. It’s fitting that these events would feature “The Museum that Alice Built” and “The Hotel She Hand-Picked.” Remember: But for Walmart, we’d likely still be flying out of Fayetteville’s tiny, fog-prone Drake Field.Sam Walton made the early push for a new airport, and his daughter Alice was first chairperson of the Northwest Arkansas Council, formed in 1990 with the primary goal of constructing a new airport. As a result, XNA loses 35 percent in business to other airports, such as Tulsa, Springfield, Fort Smith and Kansas City, XNA’s Johnson says. “And 9 percent of our travelers drive to Dallas to fly. We think it’s international vacation travelers, but we don’t know with any great degree of certainty.” But XNA is a positive anomaly in that flights and seats are expanding.

northwest arkansas speed dating llc-21

Did you know the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) will begin offering a new, nonstop flight to New York City’s La Guardia Airport beginning in April 2016, via Delta Airlines?

Stay tuned as to whether ticket prices will improve when two airlines begin serving that market.

Also this month, XNA will host a national meeting between airlines and airports — a la “speed dating” style.

Representatives from airports and carriers converge upon Northwest Arkansas Oct. At the Embassy Suites in Rogers, they’ll rotate meeting each other every 25 minutes.

During the recent economic downturn, many Walmart suppliers expected employees to scour the region’s airports to find fares cheaper than XNA’s. I do think people are intensely proud of our airport, where travel options and quality are made possible by retail-related travel. New, nonstop flights eliminate the dreaded possibility of a second leg being canceled, stranding a traveler overnight.

Yes, most XNA planes are still regional jets — outside the occasional 737 or MD80 — but that means more frequency of flights and options.

The use of 167-seat airplanes would leave only two daily flights to Chicago instead of six, Johnson said.

No inquiry of Johnson would be complete without the eternal nagging question: Any news on adding another low-fare carrier?

“We meet with them all the time; we had 28 airline meetings last year,” she said. We’ve met with Sprint, Frontier, Jet Blue and Virgin.

Southwest is not really a discount carrier anymore.

Their fares have gone up 16 percent in recent years and service has gone down in airports such as Little Rock and Tulsa. We don’t meet the Southwest business model and they’re pulling out of markets our size.” Robin Mero is content director for Bentonville-based Selling to the Masses, which serves as a destination for resources to help early-stage, consumer-product companies get and stay on the shelves of the country’s top retailers.