BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) will use funding from a new federal grant to pursue nonstop service to one of the region’s most important business destinations.

The $500,000 grant comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASD). The department announced SCASD grants to XNA and 24 other airports on August 3.

“Losing nonstop flights to San Francisco in early 2020 was one of the main setbacks we saw due to COVID-19, and we’re determined to get it re-established because it’s so important to our business community,” said Andrew Branch, the airport’s chief business development officer. “What we actually saw when it did operate is people loved having the nonstop each day, and it provided value to both the business travelers and the leisure travelers who wanted to get to the Bay Area.”

Without the nonstop option, XNA saw its number of people flying to the San Francisco region fall dramatically. The route averaged 80 passengers a day in 2019, but just 26 people a day made that trip last year, an XNA consultant’s report shows.

A link to the official order for the awarded grants can be found here.