In a large bowl, pour 1 1/2 cups of warm water, yeast, and granulated sugar together. This is best done with a stand mixer or by hand, the hand mixer is not normally strong enough to keep up with the thick batter.
Let this sit for 4-5 minutes. The mixture will start frothing and foaming. This means the yeast is activated. This should be happening at this step otherwise the water temperature was not correct.
Once the yeast is frothy, add the flour and the salt, mix this well to combine.
Transfer the dough and if any remains in your bowl knead that in as well, you can add about 1-2 tbsp of water if needed to get it to stick together. Knead this for 2-3 minutes on a floured surface until you have a nice ball formed. It will be slightly sticky but should not stick to your fingers.
Pour 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil in a bowl, place the dough in the bowl and cover for 30 minutes.
After about 20 minutes into the rising time, fill a saucepan with 4 cups of water, it's best to use a 5 quart pan. Bring the water to a boil.
Once it's boiling add in 1/4 cup of baking soda, be very careful as it will bubble up.
After 30 minutes of the dough rising, place the dough into a working surface to divide into balls. It's easiest to use a cookie dough scoop otherwise use a tablespoon to do this.
Place 4-6 balls at a time into the baking soda bath for 30 seconds, then immediately place in the air fryer basket. (The basket can be lined with parchment or silicone liners if you prefer.)
Use the Air Fryer to cook these for 3 minutes at 390*F. (This is with no preheating.)
Flip the pretzels and bake for an additional 4 minutes.
Repeat the process for all pretzel balls.
Once they are cooked, brush with the melted butter and salt.