Jun 8, 2021 - Real Estate

After pandemic setback, renovations are coming to XNA

Airplanes sit on the tarmac at XNA

Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) on June 7, 2021. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

After the pandemic put its plans on hold, XNA is now turning its attention to future projects to expand and update the airport.

What's happening: Three projects are on the horizon.

  • A skybridge that will connect the parking deck to the second floor of the terminal at a cost of about $30 million. The project will include renovating the second floor and is needed for safety and for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, spokesperson Alex English tells Axios.
  • A new air traffic control tower.
  • Updated baggage claim area.

The big picture: XNA is trying to accommodate Northwest Arkansas residents' leisure and business travel while also making it easier for visitors to get to Northwest Arkansas, English says. The goal is to make sure the airport is keeping up with the region's growth.

Timeline: The skybridge, the airport's top priority, should break ground later this year or early 2022 and take 18 months to complete.

  • All three projects are expected to be complete in the next few years.

Context: XNA leaders have several other projects they would like to tackle, such as a new taxiway and new parking deck, but those are on the back burner.

  • The pandemic halted XNA's renovation plans as traffic plummeted last year, English says. The airport's traffic numbers had been consistently up in prior years.
  • Air travel is bouncing back, but XNA is not yet seeing pre-pandemic numbers. It's back to 2016-2017 numbers.

Flashback: XNA has been steadily expanding its flight offerings, launching flights to Nashville and Phoenix in 2019. In February, it announced direct flights to Austin. And last month, it announced direct flights to New Orleans, San Antonio, and Tampa, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

  • "We'll never say no to a direct flight," English says.

1 cool thing: English says the airport is also looking to add local restaurant and coffee options, along with art to make the airport "feel more Northwest Arkansas."


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