It is once again time for another Essential Air Service (EAS) trip report. Just like my journey on Air Choice…
Onboard the First Avelo Airlines Flight
Avelo Airlines has officially taken flight. The new low-cost carrier, dreamt up by former Allegiant Air executive Andrew Levy, launched its inaugural flight from Hollywood Burbank Airport to Charles M. Shultz Sonoma County Airport on Wednesday. The highly anticipated startup plans to operate point-to-point routes between secondary markets.
Despite launching during a pandemic, Avelo hopes to tempt customers with rock-bottom fares starting at $19 one-way and cheap $10 checked bags. These low prices could be just what Avelo needs to entice travelers to fly again. In a recent interview with AirlineGeeks, CEO Andrew Levy discussed the airline’s new network focus and its plans to stand out from the crowd.
The inaugural flight was the first chance customers had to see the airline’s full gate-to-gate experience. Here’s what it was like to be on Avelo’s first flight which connects busy Los Angeles County to the beautiful California wine country.
At Hollywood Burbank Airport
The festivities began in Burbank where the media and other attendees were welcomed by Avelo employees and airport staff. The check-in area was full of smiling faces, vibrant colors and an Avelo backdrop which proved to be a popular photo op.
The check-in process was easy, which can be done online or at one of Avelo’s three counters. Passengers will also see a spot to check the size of their carry-on.
At the gate, attendees had the opportunity to mingle with others and get hyped for the flight, which was a breath of fresh air after 14 months of minimal socializing.
Before boarding, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony where Levy spoke about that company’s purpose and his vision, saying, “Avelo’s purpose is to inspire travel. That is the single greatest distinction that we bring to the marketplace and today you will get a chance to be on our flight to experience that first hand.”
The boarding process for Avelo was pretty straightforward. The gate had a carry-on bag size check and a screen displaying the destination and departure time. Passengers were assigned a boarding group between one and five and boarded via a ramp when their group was called. At the aircraft door, customers were greeted by flight attendants and Alevo executives.
Once onboard, passengers got a first look at the interior of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The plane had roomy galleys, sufficient overhead bin space, a good size tray table, and seatback pockets. Compared to other budget carriers, Avelo had an impressive cabin.
The seats were pretty comfortable on the one-hour journey. They were not too hard, even with minimal padding, and would be fine for a short flight.
The plane is configured with 189 economy seats, all of which have varying pitches. Standard seats had 29 inches, the front row had 39 inches and exit rows had 38 inches. Furthermore, the few rows behind the front and the exit rows varied from 32 to 35 inches.
While Avelo is still deciding on what the standard seat will be across its entire fleet, the seats on the inaugural flight actually reclined, which is uncommon for a budget airline.
After everyone was seated and the safety briefing complete, we were ready for departure. The pilots pushed back from the gate at 10:30 a.m. on the dot and we were wheels up shortly after. The take-off was met with cheers and applause as we soared above beautiful Southern California.
In the Air
The one-hour ride to Santa Rosa was very lively. Passengers were mingling and the company served sparkling apple cider to toast to a successful launch.
The inflight food and drink service was basic but was clearly tailored for the pandemic. The flight attendants served a pre-packaged snack, complete with tasty shortbread cookies, a water bottle and a hand sanitizing wipe. While the snack was small, it is likely Avelo will add more options as the pandemic comes under control. The airline plans to charge for food and beverages in the long term.
At Charles M. Shultz Sonoma County Airport
After a smooth ride, Avelo was treated with a warm welcome from Charles M. Shultz Sonoma County Airport. Passengers deplaned via a ramp where we were handed a bag full of goodies and met with cheers from airport employees. It was a true feel-good moment.
Once in the airport, we heard from Levy, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers, the Sonoma County Airport and a Sonoma County Tourism representative. Levy discussed his excitement to serve Santa Rosa, and how he has personal ties to the area after marrying there in 2014. Meanwhile, Sonoma County Tourism expressed optimism about travel to Santa Rosa, explaining that there is a strong demand to travel to the area as the pandemic loosens its grip on everyone’s daily lives.
Rogers discussed how Avelo’s service would not only have a strong economic impact on tourism to the area but also have a great social impact. He said, “My little brother, the closest airport to him is Burbank, so having a flight that I can depend on that is cheap enough to afford so I can be a part of his family in southern California means the world to me. This company and these flights will better connect our community to folks who have been missing their loved ones and their friends.”
The return to Burbank left at 3:55 p.m., leaving passengers with about four hours between flights. So, what better way to kill time than at one of Sonoma County’s infamous wineries? Avelo shuttled members of the media off to Lynmar Estate and treated us to a garden-to-table lunch and wine tasting. There, the winery’s owner Lynn Fritz explained how Avelo will greatly impact tourism to not only his winery but to the community as a whole.
After a lovely experience in California’s wine country, we made our way back to the airport for the return flight to Burbank. It was a smooth ride back and the festivities concluded with a round of applause after touchdown.
While Avelo is a new carrier and has a lot of work to do to become a household name, the airline plans to expand quickly and serve 11 leisure-focused destinations by the summer. The airline has been built by brilliant minds with decades of experience in the industry. After a successful day one, there’s optimism that it will find its stride and truly take off.
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