Just a few short weeks after announcing its business plans, Avelo Airlines has entered into service. Chris Sloan, founder of The Airchive, spoke to the carrier’s chairman and CEO, Andrew Levy, before taking a seat on the first flight.
On April 28, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Houston-based ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Avelo Airlines (Avelo) completed its inaugural flight between Burbank and Santa Rosa using a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. It is the first US carrier to launch during the pandemic, but will be closely followed by David Neeleman’s startup, Breeze Airways, in May.
Avelo is led by Andrew Levy, who served as president of Allegiant, but Levy told APEX Media it is far from a clone of the latter: Allegiant’s routes connect small markets with leisure destinations, while Avelo is connecting underserved cities using secondary airports in metropolitan areas. Levy also said Avelo’s operating costs are 25% lower.
With Burbank as its first base, Avelo is initially hoping to attract Los Angeles traffic to secondary airports like Phoenix-Mesa Gateway in Arizona and Ogden-Hinckley in Utah, alongside nine other destinations. However, with three additional 737-800s – two owned and one leased – due by end of this year, Avelo is also planning to introduce a secondary airport base, likely on the East Coast.
The carrier is taking an alternative approach to passenger experience compared with most ULCCs. It all hinges on Avelo’s aim to embody what it calls “The Soul of Service.” Levy explained, “We’ve made an effort to hire people that embrace our values, and I hope it’s a point of distinction.” While half of the inaugural flight’s cabin crew were industry veterans, the others were working their first flights.
It is also aiming to offer good service from an operational perspective. For example, Avelo won’t charge change fees, and checked bags only cost $10 each. According to Levy, encouraging customers to check their luggage will reduce turnaround times and improve the passenger experience. Carry-on luggage is priced at $35 per bag.
Likewise, Avelo’s aircraft cabins aren’t out to put a squeeze on passengers. Its 737-800s will operate at their 189-passenger capacity, but all the seats recline. Sixty seats offer extended legroom, with a pitch of between 32- and 35-inches, while standard seats have a 29-inch pitch. Levy revealed that the Acro Aircraft Seating slimline seats installed on its first 737-800 were originally destined for another airline that went out of business.
Regarding the cabin design, Levy said, “We really cleared out whatever wasn’t necessary. The 737-800s have really large galleys, so we opted for one galley and took out the other one. As a result, we’ve opened up the cabin.”
Avelo’s flights average under two hours, but passengers are given a complimentary sealed package consisting of a bottle of water, a cookie and hand sanitizer when boarding. Soon, the airline will introduce a limited food and beverage menu, but the free water will remain.
Levy said Avelo will think about adding in-flight connectivity “when there’s better technology that’s about to start to get rolled out,” but declined to give further details. Considering the length of the flights, it is unsurprising there is no seatback power.
The carrier is investing in digital marketing and will eventually appear on meta-search platforms but will not rely on online travel agents or third-party platforms for its distribution. Much like Allegiant, customers will have to go directly to the website or app to book. The fares, if nothing else, are sure to snag travelers’ attentions – Avelo’s introductory ticket prices begin at $19 each way.