Transport startup Avelo puts Delaware back on the aviation map
Nathaniel Brown, a logistics manager from Wilmington, Delaware, booked a surprise flight to visit his sister in Orlando.
For months, it was impossible to book flights out of Delaware — it was the only state in the United States without commercial air service. Instead, local visitors have driven to nearby cities like Philadelphia or Baltimore.
On Wednesday, however, Brown was one of the passengers boarding the first Avelo Airlines flight from Wilmington.
The airline’s arrival there will give Delaware its first commercial passenger flight in nearly seven months. Several other carriers — including Delta Air Lines and Frontier Airlines — have come and gone in recent years. Now, Avelo and local officials hope the state can erase that dubious achievement forever.
Avelo’s Orlando service starting Wednesday is the first of five routes to Florida it is adding at Wilmington Airport (ILG). Other new routes launching this month are to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa and West Palm Beach.
Avelo founder and CEO Andrew Levy believes the airline can succeed in Delaware despite the market’s disappointing performance in air services.
He’s betting on a formula that focuses on direct flights to popular entertainment markets. For starters, Avelo will place one of its 737s in Wilmington, making it its fourth base along with Burbank, California; New Haven, Connecticut; and Orlando.
“What we’re doing is simply different from what anyone else has done that I know of,” Levy said of his shipping plans for Wilmington in an interview with TPG ahead of the inauguration. “We are putting a plane there with our people, the plane will live there. It will come home there every night.”
The decision to launch flights from Delaware largely reflects what Avelo has done at its base at Tweed New Haven Airport (HVN) — formerly a little-used airport located in a densely populated corridor. casting. Avelo has launched flights from the airport mainly to leisure destinations – routes for which it has no direct competition as it is the only airline there.
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Now, Avelo will enjoy a similar advantage in Wilmington, assuming it can draw passengers to the airport located just about 40 miles south of Center City, Philadelphia.
Given Wilmington’s location, Avelo has the ability to pull passengers from nearby Philadelphia – and possibly even from the Baltimore metro area, about 70 miles away.
Levy hopes Avelo will appeal to customers in areas that value low-cost direct flights to mass-market destinations like Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, even with a bit of driving.
“After flying out of Baltimore and flying out of Philly, I knew if it were up to me — and I live in between all three of those places — I knew where I was going,” says Levy. “It won’t be. I’m going to Wilmington.”
The last carrier operating out of Wilmington was Frontier, plug out last summer after serving the airport for only about 15 months.
Avelo plans to place a Boeing 737-700 in Wilmington and has hired about 50 part-time and full-time employees to run its operations there.
Whether Avelo’s fares and schedules will be enough to lure customers away from older airports remains to be seen. For now, however, the airline has launched the Wilmington route to great fanfare.
Related: ‘So surreal’: How it happened on Avelo Airlines’ East Coast inaugural flight
A dome of purple, gold, white and blue balloons adorns the airport’s entrance, topped with silver balloon text that reads “Hello Avelo”. Passengers and members of the media flooded the small airport while University of Delaware and Delaware State University mascots danced around.
“Today is a really big day,” Thomas Cook, who runs the airport, said at the press conference.
A sense of optimism pervaded the press conference announcing the launch of the Avelo in Wilmington.
Speaking at the press conference ahead of the inaugural flight, Levy said he expects Avelo’s presence in Delaware to be a long-term and growing partnership.
Delaware State Treasurer Colleen Davis even hinted at the possibility that President Joe Biden, a longtime Delaware resident, would fly an Avelo flight from Wilmington. She also mentioned that the airline is considering placing another Boeing 737-700 in Wilmington later this year.
After the press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony, families bringing their children to Disney World for the first time rushed through security as the plane was ready to board.
Many passengers seem relieved to have commercial air service in Wilmington. Marita Davis, who lives in nearby Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, said she booked a last-minute flight to Orlando because of a family emergency. Whenever Wilmington is out of commercial air service, Davis said she drives to airports in Philadelphia or Baltimore to catch her flights.
“Wilmington is definitely always our first choice,” she said.
Just after 10 a.m., Avelo’s maiden flight from Wilmington took off to the resounding applause of the plane’s passengers.
For now, Avelo and Wilmington can focus on the excitement surrounding the low-cost airline’s service expansion there. Ultimately, however, the question to be answered is: Will it last?
Related: Startup Avelo strengthens Florida presence with 3 new routes
Avelo will operate flights from Wilmington to five cities in Florida:
Fort Lauderdale: Starting February 2. One return flight on Tuesday and Thursday.
Fort Myers: Starting February 3. One round-trip flight on Monday and Friday.
Orlando: Starting February 1. One return flight on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Tampa: Starting February 2. One return flight on Thursday and Sunday.
West Palm Beach: Starting February 4. One return flight on Wednesdays and Sundays.