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OPINION | TED TALLEY: Flights out of region’s airport offer thrilling destinations, but ease of travel turns turbulent at other airports

Non-stops work well at XNA, not so much elsewhere by Ted Talley | May 12, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

On a bright Sunday morning in March I took the new non-stop service from Bentonville to Kansas City for a Big 12 Conference basketball playoff game. No, there are no scheduled flights from Northwest Arkansas National (XNA) to Kansas City's Mid-Continent International (MCI), even though for a time last century such was available from our passenger aircraft depot of the day Drake Field. USAir-affiliated Beechcrafts, so slender that all seats were simultaneously window and aisle, departed five times a day from south of Fayetteville to north of Missouri's largest city.

Yet my recent two-and-a-half hour non-stop to Kansas City required a pilot, but not a plane. My Honda Pilot with on-board navigation and captain's chairs took me there, a trip I've been curious to make since Interstate 49 was completed last fall from Bentonville, the San Jose of the Ozarks, straight through to Kansas City, Paris of the Plains. With a full tank and a potty break beforehand, the drive to downtown K.C. was wide open, four-laned and without pause.

Word play aside, I did fly two non-stops into our nifty local airport last month. Unlike other markets of similar size, Northwest Arkansas enjoys considerable air service to coastal mega-metros and most hubs in-between. Current schedules closely replicate those of pre-covid days. Among the three legacy carriers' single-plane destinations of two years ago, only two, Newark and San Francisco, have not been restored, according to XNA press liaison Alex English.

In the same spirit as driving the updated, shorter route to Kansas City, I booked my two flights just because I could.

First was New York LaGuardia on Delta following a visit with my North Carolina grandson. Outbound I made the usual connection through the overwhelming Atlanta hub. The return trip offered an unconventional connection through New York LaGuardia (LGA). Avoiding the descent into the bowels of ATL again, I chose New York thinking Delta's smallish, easily navigated hub of far western Long Island was still operating as decades ago. I was incorrect. Not only is LGA undergoing a major face lift, Delta is now the dominant carrier there with two terminals under renovation. I had to schlep myself and luggage down two flights of stairs, board a crowded shuttle, and climb two more flights to reach the XNA gate. Until further notice, take note. You have to take a bus to get from Queens to Bentonville.

Ten days later I flew an American Eagle nonstop from XNA to Los Angeles to see one of the last performances of "Ann" written and performed by Holland Taylor (known mostly for her sarcastic mother role on TV's "Two and a Half Men.") Her work is a one-woman homage to the late Texas governor Ann Richards and the portrayal was funny, poignant and spot-on in depicting the colorful politician. In two vignettes, Taylor's Richards was on the phone with our own Bill Clinton. As a bonus, the show was at the famous Pasadena Playhouse.

I experienced tourist sites I've never enjoyed during years of business trips out there, strolling the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, dining at venerable Musso and Frank's Grill and stargazing at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Stephen Spielberg and Topher Grace waved from the red carpet at a Turner Classic Movies event. A visit to Petersen Automotive Museum was amazing---hundreds of famous cars including one of the aquamarine Thunderbird convertibles used in "Thelma and Louise." Close up and personal was the car our Bentonville Film Festival founder Geena Davis drove with Susan Sarandon in their misadventures. And a personal connection: Davis is seen at the wheel of my own blue classic Ford ragtop on the film festival website.

During lunch with a college buddy and longtime Pacific Palisades resident, I experienced life near the rich and famous at the western end of Sunset Boulevard. As we left our fashionable café, the probable future L.A. mayor Rick Caruso nodded in recognition (my friend has written about him); it was rather like bumping into Alice Walton at Crystal Bridges.

Non-stops between XNA and LAX are convenient on our end. However American's LAX regional jets operate from a satellite terminal ten minutes by shuttle from the main terminals. It's an arrangement even more problematic than Delta at New York.

So caveat emptor. While out here in fly-over country everything's up to date in Kansas City, as Oscar Hammerstein's Broadway lyrics inform us, you may find Los Angeles and New York, frankly, a little behind the times. Getting home to Hogeye from the Big Apple or Tinseltown, you've got to take the bus.

Print Headline: Fancy a flight?

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