- Avelo Airlines, America’s newest ultra-low-cost carrier, offers cheap flights to leisure destinations.
- It serves smaller airports near big cities that offer easier access but fewer amenities.
- There are extra fees for checked bags and seat assignments, but not much more.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Avelo Airlines has slowly been introducing itself to the American traveling public as the carrier inaugurates its first 11 routes across the West Coast and Southwest.
And with the airline preparing for an expansion to the East Coast by year’s end, more Americans will soon become acquainted with Avelo.
The carrier’s ultra-low-cost business model puts it on par with Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines, and Frontier Airlines more so than Southwest Airlines or JetBlue Airways. But the airline, headed by Allegiant Air cofounder Andrew Levy, is taking a very different approach.
“Avelo’s purpose is to inspire travel and today we begin that process of making it easy, and convenient, and affordable with everyday low fares, for customers to be able to choose us,” Levy said ahead of the airline’s launch.
I flew on Avelo’s very first flight from Burbank to Santa Rosa in California and paid only $19 for the one-way fare. Naturally, I was expecting a similar experience to Spirit or Frontier but was wrong. What I found instead was a new breed of ultra-low-cost carrier with an incredibly unique offering.
Here’s what you need to know when booking a ticket on Avelo.
The airline won’t be found at larger airports
Convenience is at the heart of Avelo’s strategy, and that includes using smaller airports like Hollywood Burbank Airport in California, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona, or Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport in Connecticut. These airports are usually easier to get to, have cheaper parking rates, and fewer delays because there are fewer flights.
“We’re going to offer people a terrific deal and hopefully a really easy experience, very convenient, and a nice experience in terms of dealing with great people,” Levy told Insider.
They offer a more bare-bones experience compared to airports like Los Angeles International or John F. Kennedy International. That can be good or bad, depending on traveler preferences.
All three of the aforementioned airports feature single-story terminal buildings with very basic amenities. Passengers board and deplane from aircraft outdoors using ramps from the tarmac.
But smaller airports are often more convenient to access and move through.
Checking a bag is cheaper than carrying one on
Baggage fees are a top money-maker for airlines, especially ultra-low-cost carriers like Avelo. And while the airline charges for anything larger than a personal item, the fees are surprisingly low.
The fee for the first checked bag, for example, is only $10, while a carry-on bag will incur a standard rate of $35.
Levy says that lowering prices on checked bags will encourage more flyers to do so and free up space in the cabin. The result should be faster boarding and deplaning of the aircraft.
There are also fewer chances for bags to be lost since Avelo only offers direct flights with no connections.
Don’t expect to pay too many fees
Avelo is taking a different approach from its ultra-low-cost competitors by shunning most fees, including those to change a flight reservation. Most full-service US carriers have eliminated change fees, but they live on with the country’s ultra-low-cost carriers – except Avelo.
Customers will not have to pay a fee to change a flight. They’ll only have to pay the fare difference.
“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.”
Another fee that Avelo is shunning is the call center fee. Customers that call to make a new reservation or make a change won’t be penalized for doing so.
“I want you to be treated kindly, and I want us to be able to make a difference and differentiate ourselves by providing a great experience engaging with customers on the phone,” Levy said.
To pay for a seat or not to pay for a seat
I never pay extra for seat assignments when I flew on ultra-low-cost carriers, and I’ve almost always been assigned an aisle or window seat as a result. Case in point: I didn’t pay for a seat on my Avelo flight as was assigned 14F, a window seat towards the front of the plane.
The difference on Avelo, however, is that aisle and window seats start at $5, so the investment is minimal.
Flyers can take a risk by not selecting a seat and may be assigned a good seat. But the option for a $5 window or aisle seat is a good way for flyers to avoid a middle seat without breaking the bank.
The cheapest seats are $4 but since those are for middle seats in the back of the plane. Those are already the worst possible seats on the plane and flyers are better off spending the extra dollar, or taking a risk by not paying for a seat at all.
Snacks and drinks are free
Avelo doesn’t currently offer a full in-flight snack and drinks service due to the pandemic, but the airline does distribute what it calls “convenience packages.” Inside the sealed package is a water bottle, a package of shortbread cookies, and a Purell wipe.
It’s not much, but Avelo’s flights are typically less than two hours in duration, and outside food can be brought on the plane if it clears TSA screening.
Not all seats are the same, but they do recline
Seats onboard Avelo’s Boeing 737s vary based on legroom, as is the case on all ultra-low-cost carriers. The cheapest and seats offer 29 inches of legroom while more expensive seats between 31 and 38 inches of legroom.
The price for each seat depends on how much legroom the section it’s in offers. The first row of the cabin offers nearly unlimited legroom and the next comparable seats are the exit rows.
Seats also recline, which is rare for an ultra-low-cost carrier that offers minimal legroom in some sections. Another unique perk is that seats come with a proper tray table, unlike Spirit and Frontier, with ample room to hold drinks and food.
There’s no first-class cabin.
There’s no TSA PreCheck, yet
Avelo is not on the Transportation Security Administration’s list of participating airlines for the PreCheck program, meaning all passengers will have to endure traditional security checks. The good news is that Avelo primarily serves smaller airports where lines for security checkpoints are often shorter.
But even then, travelers will still have to take off their shoes and remove laptops from their bags.
Avelo is coming soon to the East Coast
Avelo just announced expansion plans for the East Coast that will see a base in New Haven, Connecticut at Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport. The first routes have not yet been announced but flights across the East Coast are planned.
Moving into New Haven required a $100 million modernization plan, of which $1.2 million is being funded by Avelo, to extend the airport’s runway and enhance its terminal building. The first flights will depart by year’s end.