- Avelo Airlines just broke cover and plans to start flights on April 28 from Burbank, California.
- Andrew Levy, former president of Allegiant Air, is at the helm with a focus on cheap flights and friendly service.
- A total of 11 routes have already been announced to popular destinations across the American West.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
It’s lights, cameras, action for America’s newest airline that’s planning its Hollywood debut later this month.
Avelo Airlines plans to launch flights on April 28 from Hollywood Burbank Airport near Los Angeles, giving travelers yet another option when planning pandemic getaways. The new ultra-low-cost airline is focused on cheap leisure flights and will fly to popular destinations in the American West from before expanding across the country.
“Avelo is a different and better kind of airline, built from scratch to offer an affordable, convenient and caring travel experience,” chief executive Andrew Levy said in a press release.
The initial slate of 11 routes from Burbank include flights to:
- Santa Rosa, California from April 28;
- Pasco, Washington from April 29;
- Bozeman, Montana from April 30;
- Phoenix, Arizona from May 3;
- Ogden, Utah from May 4;
- Grand Junction,
- Colorado from May 9; Medford,
- Oregon from May 9;
- Eugene, Oregon from May 12;
- Bend, Oregon from May 13;
- Eureka, California from May 19; and
- Redding, California from May 20.
Burbank, just north of downtown Los Angeles, offers a convenient alternative to Los Angeles International Airport that the company hopes will help spur bookings and encourage flyers to travel.
“A big part of our business model is not just offering every day, great fares,” Levy told Insider. “We’re a low-cost carrier. We’re built to offer low fares, but at the same time we’re going to offer a great level of convenience by utilizing Burbank, which we think is probably the best secondary airport in the country.”
An airport stuck in time, the one-story terminal building at Burbank resembles a scene from the 1950s. Passengers are required to board aircraft directly from the tarmac since there are no jetways. .
The Boeing 737-800, a tried and true narrow-body aircraft that can seat 189 people in the airline’s all-economy configuration, will be Avelo’s flagship aircraft. The plane is a staple of other well-known low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, and Ryanair thanks to its low operating costs and high availability on the market.
In true ultra-low-cost fashion, flyers won’t find seat-back entertainment screens – though WiFi may be coming within the next year. Avelo says it’s working with potential suppliers for the service.
In-flight snacks and drinks service won’t be offered in the airline’s initial run, either, due to the pandemic. Customers will instead receive a “convenience package” with hand sanitizer, a bottle of water, and a small snack.
The bulk of the aircraft’s seating are “slimline” seats, the term for thinner seats on airplanes, with only 29 inches of pitch across the 129 seats. The remaining 60 seats, however, will range in pitch from 31 to 38 inches, and reserving one will cost at least $18.
Fares as low as $19 are being offered on all of the airline’s initial routes from April into mid-June for some destinations, except for flights around Memorial Day Weekend. They’re just introductory fares but low ticket prices are part of Avelo’s overall strategy to stimulate demand in underserved markets and become a go-to for cheap flights.
“Quite honestly, I’d love to be able to do, over many years, what Southwest has done,” Levy said. “Where when people hear ‘Avelo,’ they just associate us with low fares.”
Offering low fares, however, means that Avelo will have to fill its planes as close to the brim as possible in order to turn a profit. “We’re looking to sell the flights very full, we’re defining full as 80-85%,” Levy said.
And unlike competitors, Avelo doesn’t have a robust system of extra fees to fall back on. Advanced seat assignments start at $5 and checking a bag will only cost $10, with the latter meant to open more space in the cabin during boarding and deplaning. There’s also no fee to make a flight change or make a reservation over the phone.
These extra charges, known as ancillary fees, have become the backbone of ultra-low-cost airlines’ strategy as they don’t incur taxes.
Keeping calm during a crippling pandemic for airlines
Avelo, one of two low-cost airlines launching operations during the pandemic, has the benefit of an experienced founder. Levy formerly served as the co-founder and president of Allegiant Air and chief financial officer of United Airlines.
“I think probably during the pandemic, maybe the hardest thing was just to keep everybody calm and to recognize that there’s a lot of good that’s going to come from the end of the business cycle,” Levy said.
The industry veteran was actually optimistic instead of pessimistic when the pandemic hit the US in March 2020. Leveling the playing field for airlines made it easier for a new entrant to compete with established players.
Congress ultimately saved many airlines from possible bankruptcy, but the pandemic’s outcome still favors leisure airlines like Avelo, analysts say. More Americans are willing to get back in the air after an extended pandemic and ultra-low-cost airlines are allowing them to do it without breaking the bank.
“I think all of our investors realize that this will have been a pretty strong opportunity for us to get into markets we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get into, take advantage of materially lower costs for things like airplanes, office leases, IT contracts, parts agreements, etc.,” Levy said.
Avelo currently has three planes and more than 200 crew members but plans to have six Boeing 737s and 400 crew members by the end of the year.