How one of America’s newest airlines, Avelo, stacks up to the competition

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

  • Avelo Airlines is one of America’s newest ultra-low-cost carrier, having started flights on April 28.
  • Its competitors include Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines.
  • I flew on Avelo and saw why the airline is offering a better value thanks to its low fee structure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Americans are ready to travel for leisure again, and more airlines are popping up to serve them.

Avelo Airlines became one of the first major US airlines to launch in 15 years when it debuted in April with three planes and 11 routes. Focusing on low-cost leisure routes, flights primarily serve social distancing-friendly destinations such as California Wine Country and Yellowstone National Park where activities can be enjoyed in peace and nature.

But Avelo is going up against tough and established competitors in the ultra-low-cost realm, which CEO Andrew Levy knows quite well as the cofounder of Allegiant Air. Rivals in the field include Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines, as well as Levy’s own Allegiant.

Read More: Spirit Airlines’ low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

Those carriers don’t often enjoy the best reputations among customers, something that Avelo is aiming to change with a new attitude toward ultra-low-cost flying.

Here’s how Avelo stacks up with its competitors.

Low fares and low frills

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo began selling tickets in April with introductory fares as low as $19 on all 11 of its routes. The fares are undoubtedly low but not lower than competitors.

Frontier and Spirit frequently offer one-way fares for under $30 on many of its routes, and similarly low fares are not uncommon on Allegiant or Sun Country. But $19 is a great opening salvo for Avelo, especially when compared to rival startup Breeze that is offering fares starting at $39.

Read More: JetBlue’s founder is back with new low-cost airline Breeze. Here’s his plan to reinvent the budget market.

These are, however, introductory fares and there’s no saying just how high they’ll go after Avelo gets its footing. But CEO Andrew Levy did tell Insider that he wants the airline to be known as the go-to for low fares.

“We really want to build a brand that is about everyday low fares,” Levy said. “Quite honestly, I’d love to be able to do over many years what Southwest has done, where when people hear ‘Avelo,’ they just associate us with low fares.”

Less nickel-and-diming when it comes to extra fees

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Ultra-low-cost carriers rely on charging extra fees, known as ancillary fees, to make up for the low fares they offer, and Avelo is no different. Advance seat assignments, baggage, and bringing pets onboard will all incur an extra fee.

The difference between Avelo and many of its competitors, however, is that Avelo’s fees are much lower. Checking a bag, for example, will only incur a $10 fee on Avelo and seat assignments start at $5 for an aisle or window seat.

Bringing a carry-on bag is still $35 but passengers at least have the option to check a bag for cheaper. There are some caveats, such as an additional $10 fee if customers don’t pre-purchase baggage allowance online.

But there are some services for which Avelo doesn’t even charge a fee. Booking a flight through a call center, making changes, or even canceling a ticket will not incur a fee.

“As far as change fees are concerned. I think that’s one of the biggest pain points in the airline industry,” Levy said. “It’s been that way for years. Airlines for years have used that as a money grab, and it has no relationship to what it truly costs to manage a change.”

A limited network

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s strategy focuses on serving secondary airports across the US to provide a more convenient and cheaper experience for customers. Hollywood Burbank Airport is the airline’s only current operating base, from where all of its routes originate.

“We’re a low-cost carrier we’ve 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,” Levy said.

But beyond the West Coast, Mountain West, and Southwest, you won’t find Avelo at the local airport and for the most part, the airline doesn’t fly between big cities. A limited route network so early into the airline’s life is not something the airline can be faulted for but it doesn’t hold a candle to the established route networks of Spirit, Frontier, Allegiant, and Sun Country.

Avelo will soon expand to the East Coast and open a base in New Haven, Connecticut by year’s end. The planned routes from New Haven have not yet been announced but the airline will likely serve popular leisure destinations along the coast.

A unique in-flight service

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo is offering a modified in-flight snack and drink service during the pandemic. The “convenience package,” as the airline calls it, is a sealed package containing a bottle of water, a sanitary wipe, and a package of shortbread cookies.

Airlines are slowly bringing back the in-flight snack and drink service but some ultra-low-cost airlines have been slower than others. Frontier has abandoned the in-flight service altogether during the pandemic, as Insider found on a recent flight from Las Vegas to Seattle, and only sells water bottles on request.

Spirit, for its part, still offers an in-flight service. The difference from Avelo is that nothing comes complimentary and everything from snacks to a cup of water will incur an extra fee.

Avelo’s flights are short enough not to notice the lack of a snack and drink service but it’s a nice touch and makes the flight a little bit more welcoming.

Whether or not the offering stays after the pandemic is over, however, remains to be seen. Ultra-low-cost airlines thrive on selling ancillary items and Avelo won’t likely balk at the chance to do so.

Similar onboard products

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s flagship Boeing 737-800 aircraft are packed with 189 seats in an all-economy configuration. The default legroom on the aircraft is 29 inches of pitch, while extra legroom seats are available at a premium.

That can be tight quarters for some but it’s not uncommon for an ultra-low-cost carrier. And in terms of seat pitch, Avelo is actually better than Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant, which offer as little as 28 inches of pitch on some of their planes, according to SeatGuru.

Sun Country’s lowest seat pitch is on par with Avelo at 29 inches, according to SeatGuru.

Avelo’s seats also offer minimal cushioning and don’t feature adjustable headrests. The noticeable difference, however, is that Avelo’s seats recline and have full-size tray tables. Frontier, for its part, is upgrading its aircraft to include full-size tray tables, so the airline will soon be on par with Avelo in that regard.

Avelo doesn’t currently offer in-flight entertainment or WiFi but the latter is slated to come later in 2021. Spirit is also in the process of adding WiFi to its fleet and Sun Country currently offers streaming entertainment.

Older aircraft than some competitors

Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800
An Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800.

One area where Avelo falls behind some of its competitors is in the age of its aircraft. Avelo’s planes are second-hand Boeing 737 aircraft with an average age of 14.8 years, according to Planespotters.net, with previous owners including Turkish Airlines and TUI Airlines.

The aircraft cabins have all been retrofitted with brand-new seats and the airline’s paint job gives the appearances of a brand-new plane, but the age does show in the interior. It doesn’t take away too much from the experience but flyers won’t be flying on a brand-new plane.

Frontier and Spirit, however, are known for their young fleet of aircraft. The average age of Frontier’s fleet is 4.2 years while Spirit’s is 6.8, according to Planespotters.net, with next-generation Airbus aircraft including the A320 offering lower costs and quieter cabins.

Avelo’s fleet is more on par with Sun Country and Allegiant, both of which have average fleet ages greater than 14 years.

Which airline should travelers choose?

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo is undoubtedly the better pick for those that want a low-cost experience while still needing to purchase extras, like a seat assignment or baggage allowance. A $19 ticket with a window seat and a checked bag will only cost $34 in the end, which most of Avelo’s competitors can’t say.

Flexibility is also built into Avelo’s tickets as there are no change or cancellation fees.

But Avelo only serves a handful of routes while its competitors fly across the Western Hemisphere. Choosing Avelo isn’t always an option but when it is, it can definitely be the better pick.

Read the original article on Business Insider