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By Dave Woods |

Kelly Johnson has worked a long time to make sure visitors passing through Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport have a pleasant experience.

“We want them to have a positive experience as they travel through the airport,” Kelly said. “We hope they find the facility welcoming and easy to navigate.”

Kelly, airport director for more than two decades, oversees day-to-day operations including public safety, marketing and recruitment for air service development and airline relations, among other duties. She knows the development of the airport has been good for business in Northwest Arkansas.

“Airports are economic engines,” she explained. “We stimulate a lot of growth because of the connectivity that is provided to the local region.”

In 2017, 725,284 passengers boarded planes at the airport designated XNA by the Federal Aviation Administration. Just about as many deplaned creating passenger traffic of almost 1.5 million travelers. Currently four carriers, American Airlines, Delta, United and Allegiant Air, offer service to NWA travelers. The airport supports 40- plus flights daily with 16 non-stop flights to destinations around the country.

In November, XNA celebrates 20 years serving business and leisure travelers around the region. Poised for growth, Kelly said there are many projects in the works needed to accommodate an increasing number of travelers passing through the gates at XNA.

“We have a large parking deck under construction,” Kelly said. “We will be moving the rental car operations into the bottom floor of that facility. We are working on adding two additional gates and we are in the design phase of a checkpoint expansion.  Eventually we will put in a connector from the second floor of the parking deck directly into the second level of the terminal.” This addition will allow passengers who don’t check bags and have their boarding pass on their phones to go directly to the security check point and bypass the lobby altogether.

Kelly said one challenge she faces is making sure flights are available to where passengers want and need to go. Johnson said she is pleased a new Allegiant Air route was recently added.

“We have added a seasonal route to Destin (FL) and we are thrilled to have it,” she said. “The two day a week flights during the summer season were so successful they have added a third. The more you use a service, the more stable that service is going to be. We encourage people to fly XNA. For a small community we have excellent air service.”

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