`Fayetteville' is confusing for travelers

Folks every single day walk into the Fayetteville Municipal Airport, Drake Field, ready to board their commercial airline's flight.

Imagine the horrible, sinking feeling when they realize the commercial airlines moved nine years ago to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill.

Word travels slow.

"The farther in the front door they get, the angrier they get," said MaryKathryn Floyd, an employee of Million Air, Drake Field's fixed-based operator. "I give them a map." The map shows how to get to the regional airport. It's 28 minutes to XNA if the Cave Springs cops aren't paying attention.

Floyd redirected five groups of travelers Tuesday morning. She's had as many as 12 misplaced groups.

There's always someone, like Friday when Teresa Stimpson of the Marion County town of Oakland showed up.

Stimpson's flight on United Airlines from Springfield, Mo., to Denver was canceled, so she drove to Fayetteville to catch a different United flight. "My ticket says Fayetteville," said Stimpson, who's lived in Arkansas for a year.

"The ticket agent sent me to Fayetteville." Airlines do little to dissuade "Fayetteville" thinking.

All the airlines serving XNA mention Fayetteville when a person books a flight on their Web sites.

United Airlines gets a break because it also mentions Bentonville, causing people to do more research, even if Bentonville isn't correct, either.

Last week, as a public service, The Guru asked each airline to remove "Fayetteville" from its online flight booking system. Most said they'd check a couple of things and call back. They never did.

American Airlines spokesman Andrea Huguely contacted her bosses who run the airline's Web site and asked for it to mention Bentonville and the Northwest Arkansas airport, but the word "Fayetteville" could stay, too.

Among the travel Web sites, only Hotwire shows "NW Arkansas Regional" without any city.

"It cuts down on the confusion," said Channing Barringer, a Hotwire spokesman.

Steve Curry, a driver for Fayetteville's Dynasty cab company who moved back to Arkansas last year, didn't check Hotwire.

He'd been on the job two weeks in April 2006 when he took retired NFL star Jerome Bettis to Drake Field in a limousine. The private jet to pick up Bettis was bound for XNA. "It's a new guy in town who makes that mistake," Curry said. "I grew up here, but I'd been gone for 25 years.

"I don't screw up any more. I've driven Peyton Manning and his dad [Archie] and Peyton's brother Eli, and I got them all to XNA." Airport Director Kelly Johnson talked with airport CEO Scott Van Laningham about putting money in next year's budget to pay an incentive to airlines if they stop using "Fayetteville" and start saying "Northwest Arkansas." Hmmmm ... that sounds like money.

That's intriguing.

Did The Guru happen to mention that the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport is in Fayetteville?


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