New startup airline Avelo is already dropping 2 cities, trimming flights

Jul 8, 2021

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Could trouble be brewing for one of America’s newest startup airlines?

For Avelo, the airline that first took off on April 28 with 12 destinations from its Burbank base, that answer might be “yes” — at least in some of its markets.

On Wednesday, Avelo extended its booking window from Sept. 16 through Jan. 11, 2022. As part of the schedule extension, the carrier also made some quiet adjustments to its route map, first flagged by Brett Snyder on Twitter and later confirmed to TPG by the airline.

Perhaps the biggest news is that Avelo will exit two of its 12 cities beginning later this summer.

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Flights to Grand Junction, Colorado (GJT), will end on Aug. 16 and service to Bozeman, Montana (BZN), will end on Sept. 15. Though the route to Mesa/Phoenix, Arizona (AZA) drops off the booking schedule on Sept. 13, the carrier confirmed that it’ll “evaluate our future plans for AZA” after immediately tweaking the flight frequency from daily to four times weekly.

Avelo founder Andrew Levy cutting the ceremonial ribbon ahead of the inaugural flight in April (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Though Avelo’s pulling out of these markets, the carrier isn’t necessarily throwing in the towel in the long run. In a statement shared with TPG, spokesperson Jim Olson said that “we will reevaluate returning to [the] markets for the summer of 2022.”

As for why Avelo is dropping nearly a fourth of its first tranche of destinations, the carrier said it boils down to demand from flyers.

The airline business comes down to flying when and where our Customers want to go – safely, comfortably and at the right price. Just like every other airline, we will continuously adjust our schedule – adding and removing capacity to match Customer demand, preferences, and seasonal travel shifts. As part of our schedule extension through January 2022, we’ve made several adjustments to better align with when and where our Customers want to fly.

Avelo isn’t just dropping cities; the carrier’s also fine-tuning its schedule. The airline’s online booking schedule no longer lists any flights to any destination on Wednesdays or Saturdays from Sept. 16 through Jan. 11, 2022. Many of the carrier’s existing routes that survive the cuts will see reduced frequencies as well. For instance, flights from Burbank (BUR) to Ogden, Utah (OGD), were originally planned for six weekly services, but that’ll now get cut to four times weekly.

It’s not all bad news for Avelo, though. For one, Olson told TPG that the July 4 weekend was the busiest and best-performing stretch for the carrier since launching operations in late April.

Related: What it’s like flying with Avelo

As for growth, the carrier teased “several new West Coast destinations” that’ll be announced “in the near future.”

Additionally, in early May, the carrier unveiled plans to open its first East Coast base in New Haven, Connecticut. The city’s Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport is currently undergoing enhancements to facilitate commercial service with a Boeing 737. That work is still underway according to Olson, which has caused Avelo to delay its New Haven launch until early November.

Exiting Grand Junction and Bozeman could suggest what trends Avelo sees coming as summer gives way to autumn. With increased vaccinations and a waning pandemic, more and more leisure travelers are taking to the skies once again. Domestic travel has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels, but many experts are concerned about what happens comes September when schools reopen and business travelers usually hit the road.

Avelo’s planes are in a 3-3 configuration with 31 to 38 inches of pitch (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Avelo, being an ultra-low-cost leisure-based carrier, likely doesn’t predict enough demand for those two cities through the fall and winter. Though there are plenty of outdoor activities in both cities during the winter, there’s already lots of competition between the Los Angeles area and Bozeman (less so to Grand Junction). To Bozeman, you can fly American, Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, JetBlue or United Airlines from LAX, as well as Southwest from Orange County, per Cirium schedules.

To Grand Junction, you can fly with Allegiant from Orange County. That’s far less convenient if you’re based near Burbank, but there likely aren’t that many people going between those two cities. In 2019, Department of Transportation data shows that just 20 flyers flew from LAX to Grand Junction on average each day.

As for Mesa/Phoenix, Avelo is caving in to the pressure from its rivals. American Airlines recently added flights between BUR and its Phoenix/Sky Harbor (PHX) hub — a move seemingly aimed at Avelo’s new service. Beginning in October, AA will fly the route five-time daily (up from four), and it’ll also upgauge all flights from being operated by a regional CRJ-900 to a mainline Airbus A319.

In addition to the route-map shake-up, Avelo’s also tweaking its ancillary fee structure. Beginning on Sept. 16, the carrier will double the cost of the first checked bag, from $10 to $20. The second checked bag will jump $10, to $30. Finally, the charge for a full-size carry-on bag will drop from $35 to $25.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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