Even with a recent upswing in travel and flight bookings, an ongoing pandemic might not seem like the most opportune time to launch a new airline. But U.S. fliers will find planes sporting an unfamiliar livery in the skies at the end of this month when low-cost airline startup Avelo Airlines begins flying April 28.
Becoming the first new mainline airline in the U.S. in 15 years, Avelo Airlines was founded by Andrew Levy, a former Allegiant Air co-founder and president, and former CFO of United Airlines.
The carrier unveiled a slate of new routes out of its first base, Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR). Explaining the move, Levy said, “No airport is closer to downtown L.A., Hollywood, Pasadena, and Southern California’s many other attractions than Burbank. As the San Fernando Valley’s hometown airport, Burbank will give you easy access to an abundance of beautiful and relaxing new non-stop destinations across California and the Western U.S. And for those considering LA for their next vacation or long weekend getaway, Burbank is the ultra-convenient, stress-free gateway to Greater L.A., and the world-famous fun-in-the-sun activities Southern California is known for.”
Levy also pointed to the convenience factor for passengers as a selling point of flying into and out of Burbank instead of one of the area’s larger airports given the facility’s smaller size, streamlined pickup and drop-off services, shorter gate distances, and faster security lines.
Initially, Avelo Airlines will operate 189-seat, single-class Boeing 737-800 aircraft, just about the same as you’d find on Southwest Airlines, with seats arranged in a 3 – 3 configuration. There will be 129 slimline seats with 29 inches of pitch taking up most of the cabin, and a smaller section of 60 seats with extra legroom with up to 31-38 inches of pitch. Fares for the roomier seats will cost more, with fees starting at about $18.
Avelo Airlines’ list of launch routes include 11 non-stops to other destinations in the western U.S., all of which are now available for booking, with some fares as low as $19 each way. The destinations include:
· Arcata-Eureka, CA (ACV)
· Bend-Redmond, OR (RDM)
· Bozeman, MT (BZN)
· Eugene, OR (EUG)
· Grand Junction, CO (GJT)
· Medford, OR (MFR)
· Pasco, WA (PSC)
· Phoenix-Mesa, AZ (AZA)
· Ogden, UT (OGD)
· Redding, CA (RDD)
· Santa Rosa, CA (STS)
Of these, only Santa Rosa and Phoenix-Mesa will operate daily, while the others will be flown between three and four times per week, with start dates that range from April 28 through June 19.
Those airfares may be low, but Avelo Airlines has said that they will not include change fees or charges for making reservations through its call center, which mirrors the moves made by the rest of the airline to shore up customer confidence at a time when many travel plans are still in flux.
However, if you want to add on amenities like checked bags, or even seat selection, you can expect to pay extra. Not as much as you might have to on other airlines, though. A first checked bag will cost just $10, priority boarding will also cost $10, and pre-reserved aisle or window seat selections will start at $5 apiece. If you want to bring a standard overhead carry-on with you instead, though, expect to pay $35 extra for the convenience.
Avelo Airlines’ decision to launch out of single hub on the West Coast is an interesting one given that even major legacy U.S. carriers have begun exploring more point-to-point possibilities as travel demand has shifted from business to leisure and from international to domestic during the pandemic. Given the airline’s proposed model, though, it does make sense. With such low fares, Avelo will need to pack its aircraft with first-time customers looking for a bargain, and then make turnaround times as quick as possible so as to maximize aircraft utilization. Operating out of a single base to start is a savvy way to do that and to insulate the startup against any irregular operations that might come up in the first few months.
Interestingly, Avelo Airlines is only one of two new airlines that was expected to debut this year, the other being Breeze Airways from former JetBlue founder David Neelman. That carrier should also begin flying sometime later this spring.
The launch of a new airline should be exciting news for fliers – even those not based in the Western U.S. Hopefully Avelo’s low-cost fares will eventually push prices down not just in the markets it initially serves, but also in other competing destinations. Likewise, other airlines might watch how its flights between underserved secondary cities and airports perform in case they, too, might like to enter those markets and provide even more options for leisure travelers.