I flew on America's newest airline, Avelo, for $19 and the friendly service more than made up for the complete lack of frills
- Avelo Airlines began flying on April 28 with an inaugural flight from Burbank to Santa Rosa in California.
- The ultra-low-cost airline is launching 11 routes from Burbank to kick off operations.
- The one-hour flight was enjoyable due to Avelo’s friendly atmosphere but lacked in amenities.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
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America has a brand new airline.
Avelo Airlines made its debut on April 28 after breaking from cover earlier in the month. The ultra-low-cost airline aims to take advantage of the boom in leisure travelers that have been eager to fly again.
A total of 11 routes are being launched from Burbank. The initial slate of destinations includes Santa Rosa, California; Pasco, Washington; Bozeman, Montana; Phoenix, Arizona; Ogden, Utah; Grand Junction, Colorado; Medford, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon; Bend, Oregon; Eureka, California; and Redding, California.
At the helm of Avelo is Andrew Levy, an experienced aviation veteran with most recent experience as the cofounder of Allegiant Air and former chief financial officer of United Airlines.
I flew on Avelo from Burbank to Santa Rosa in the world-famous Sonoma County on the airline’s first day of flights. Here’s what it was like.
Arriving at Avelo’s new home base at Hollywood Burbank Airport just north of Los Angeles, I felt transported back in time. The single-level terminal is reminiscent of the early days of aviation.
Being able to use more convenient airports like Burbank is a big draw for customers to Avelo. Only a handful of airlines serve this airport, even though it boasts an ease of access that wildly surpasses Los Angeles International.
“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,” Levy told Insider in a prior interview.
Avelo’s ticketing counter was not hard to find in the small terminal and its airport staff was out in force for the inaugural flight. Boarding passes can’t be printed from self-serve kiosks as Avelo doesn’t yet have that functionality.
I had checked in the night before and could have printed a boarding pass but I still needed to check my bag. Luckily, there’s was no line as we were the first and only flight of the day.
As was the case for most passengers, I only paid $19 for the ticket. But all I got for $19 was the ticket as bags and reserved seat assignments did not come included.
Avelo is an ultra-low-cost so bringing any bag larger than a backpack will incur a fee. Carry-ons cost $35 but checked bags only cost $10, some of the cheapest pricing in the industry for bags meant to encourage more checked bags.
But my total ticket price came out to only $29 as I checked my bag for $10.
Ticket in hand, I headed to the gate for the first departure. Any gate is a short walk when departing from Burbank.
Two of Avelo’s flagship aircraft, the Boeing 737-800, were parked at the terminal. Avelo currently has plans for six aircraft and 400 crew members by the end of 2021.
The paint job is an eye-catching purple, white, and yellow that made these 15-year-old aircraft look brand new.
Avelo is the only airline flying daily non-stop flights between Burbank and California Wine Country. That is, until June 1 when Alaska Airlines starts flights on the same route.
Flights to Santa Rosa depart in the morning and return in the late afternoon, enough time for a Sonoma County wine tasting if Southern Californians want to take a cheap day trip up north.
This was the first flight of a brand new airline so inaugural festivities were in order. “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.
And with the cutting of the ribbon, it was time for boarding to begin.
Avelo boards in groups, with six in total, and hasn’t adopted the pandemic practice of back-to-front boarding. The first three groups are priority boarding and the final three are general boarding.
One of the perks of flying into and out of Burbank airport is ramps are used instead of jetways. It allows for great views of the aircraft.
Parked next to our plane was a nearly-identical backup aircraft, ready for just in case something went wrong.
Levy was stationed at the foot of the ramp to personally welcome each flyer on board.
Many onboard were aviation enthusiasts excited to make history by flying on a brand new airline.
Seats closest to the front offer the most legroom, between 31 and 38 inches, and they’ll usually cost upwards of $20 to reserve.
Seats towards the back only feature 29 inches of pitch, below average for full-service US airlines but common among ultra-low-cost carriers. But extra legroom or not, all seats are “slimline” with minimal padding and few amenities of which to speak.
Adjustable headrests, for example, are non-existent.
Seats do have, however, a decent size tray table with a cup holder and most do recline.
Those wanting more room to stretch out should book the exit rows in rows 20 and 21, or the first row of seats.
A mere 29 inches of pitch might not bode well for taller flyers, as aviation’s Johnny Jet found from his middle seat in row 15, but this flight was only around an hour where it was bearable for those aboard.
I didn’t choose a seat assignment at booking to save money and was auto-assigned a window seat in row 14 at check-in. It offered the standard 29 inches of pitch but I was just glad I wasn’t given a middle seat.
Seat-backs are noticeable bare with only safety cards in the pockets. There are no seat-back screens or any in-flight entertainment, for that matter, though WiFi is on the way, Levy told Insider in a prior interview.
Levy welcomed us aboard the historic first flight of his airline as we prepared to depart for Santa Rosa. The pandemic luckily hadn’t killed the airline but instead bolstered its proposition of cheap flights to travel-hungry Americans.
Soon enough, we were ready to head out and pushed back earlier than scheduled.
Levy sat in the very front row for the flight.
We then blasted out of Burbank on Runway 15, the mighty Boeing 737 handling the short runway well and quickly turned to the north.
We said goodbye to Burbank airport, to where this aircraft and many of its passengers would return later in the day.
The views of San Fernando Valley provided the only in-flight entertainment for many as we turned to follow the coast to Santa Rosa.
Flight attendants, smiling from ear-to-ear, then began the in-flight service. Ultra-low-cost airlines aren’t typically known for free snacks and drinks but Avelo’s initial pandemic offering includes what it calls a “convenience package.”
And shortly after, flight attendants passed around sparkling cider for an in-flight toast to Avelo.
Finding the right people to work as flight attendants and pilots was of high importance to Avelo in order to stand out among ultra-low-cost airlines.
And it showed, all of Avelo’s in-flight crew were happy, smiling, and genuinely friendly.
After a short speech by Levy, passengers raised their glasses to toast the airline.
The rest of the flight continued smoothly as we sailed over California. So far, the consensus was that the aircraft wasn’t bad for an hour flight.
New York to Los Angeles, as Spirit Airlines is planning to do in June, might be a stretch considering the lack of amenities and legroom. But Avelo is looking for a route network where flights are less than two hours.
It wasn’t before long before it was time to descend into Santa Rosa, and those on the left side of the aircraft facing forward were greeted to the best view of the Bay Area. San Francisco International Airport was the first landmark…
Followed by San Francisco itself.
California Wine Country soon came into view as we gradually descended into Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport.
Like Burbank, only a handful of airlines serve Santa Rosa. And those that do only fly regional aircraft like the Embraer E175 and Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.
Avelo’s arrival was welcomed by the county, especially because it would bring more tourists to the region on the heels of the pandemic.
As the seatbelt sign turned off, Levy was the first to rise. The first passenger flight of his new airline was complete, and it was a success.
Avelo touched down in Santa Rosa on time and with happy passengers.
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