The U.S. airline industry has twice been bailed out by Congress in the last year due to a lack of customers from the coronavirus pandemic, so the first new startup carrier in 15 years has decided that now is the time to begin service.
Crazy? Maybe. Questionable timing? Without question. But inaugural service by new California ultra low-cost carrier Avelo Airlines was introduced on April 28 starting with a rather unique Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) to Santa Rosa in the heart of wine country, via the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS). Other carriers serving the airport include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines, with the first two both flying to the Los Angeles area option LAX (Los Angeles International), and Alaska also offering Orange County flights from Sonoma County.
Clearly, Avelo is looking to tap into the customer base north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley that wants to do anything but drive to LAX to catch a flight. Whether they can generate enough point-to-point passenger traffic to attract customers who may be loyal to other carriers remains to be seen. But with a dozen additional routes coming shortly, Avelo clearly means business.
The day after the inaugural flight Avelo introduced three times weekly service on the Burbank to Pasco, Washington route, utilizing the Tri-Cities Airport (PSC). PSC is the primary airport for southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. On April 30 four times weekly flights began between Burbank and Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), the busiest airport Montana.
Avelo’s CEO, Andrew Levy, is no stranger to the ultra low-cost airline model, as he was one of the executives that helped launch Allegiant Airlines, a very successful carrier in its own right. Other destinations from Burbank that are due to launch in the coming weeks, all of which currently have no direct competition, are Arcata/Eureka, CA (ACV), Bend/Redmond, OR (RDM), Eugene, OR (EUG), Grand Junction, CO (GJT), Medford, OR (MFR), Phoenix/Mesa, AZ (AZA), Ogden, UT (OGD) and Redding, CA (RDD).
Avelo’s low-fare model is similar to those of Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit and Sun Country, with attractive super low prices that can quickly get more expensive with the following add-ons:
- First checked bag – $10
- Carry-on bag to place in the overhead – $35
- Priority boarding – $10
- Traveling with a dog or cat in the cabin – $95
- Pre-reserved aisle or window seats – starting at $5
- Extra legroom seats (more than the standard, very tight, 29 inch pitch) – $15
Avelo flights operate via 12-15 year old Boeing 747-800 aircraft with 189 economy class seats. All of its 11 introductory routes are unserved by other carriers, though options such as LAX, Orange County, Phoenix and Portland are viable and popular on other carriers.
Interestingly, Avelo’s corporate headquarters is in Houston, Texas. Clearly, the bulk of its operational employees will be based at the Burbank hub.