I Flew America's Brand New Low-Cost Airline. Here's What It's Like

Avelo is the first mainline airline to hit U.S. runways in nearly 15 years

Avelo airplane

Jeff Scarnici / Getty Images for Avelo

As major domestic carriers sought government assistance to stay afloat, new low-cost carrier Avelo Airlines announced its arrival—and then celebrated with bag-packing $19 fares. Founded by Andrew Levy (former United Airlines CFO and co-founder and president of ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air), the newcomer is America’s first mainline airline to hit the runways in nearly 15 years.

Avelo may be a low-frills (not no-frills), low-cost carrier. Still, there is a certain luxury in the simplicity of their mission to make travel more affordable without sacrificing experience. With a home base in Los Angeles, Avelo currently flies non-stop from Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) to 11 destinations located just outside of major city spotlights within California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona. The airline also announced plans to make New Haven, Connecticut (HVN), its east coast base, and is reportedly investing $1.2 million into the airport.

The airline’s choice to focus on underserved markets is a boon for budget-conscious travelers with their eye on seasonal vacation destinations that offer access to national parks, skiing, and wineries. Another plus for Avelo passengers? Flying in and out of smaller airports. This usually means a faster, smoother, and more enjoyable travel experience than the hustle, crowds, and time suck encountered at most major airports. 

So far, Avelo has fulfilled its promise of low fares right out of the gate, but can it deliver where so many other low-cost carriers fail—by actually offering a pleasant experience, too? I boarded the airline’s inaugural flight from Hollywood Burbank Airport in Los Angeles to Charles M. Schultz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, California, to find out what it’s like to take a flight with the new kid in town—and, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Ground Experience

Flying out of Burbank is almost always a breeze—but when you pull up to the airport 40 minutes before your flight is scheduled to depart, it’s a godsend. Make no mistake, if Avelo flew out of LAX, I would have missed my flight. Instead, I went from unbuckling in my car to buckling into my seat in less than 20 minutes—and I wasn’t even the last one on board. (Likewise, after deplaning in Santa Rosa, exiting the plane to exiting the airport took less than 90 seconds.) 

Hollywood Burbank is a small two-terminal airport, and there are no airport lounges. Avelo is located in Terminal B, a quick five-minute (or less) walk from the onsite parking lots. The airline’s check-in and ticketing counters are front and center as you walk through the door, and the TSA screening checkpoint is less than a minute’s walk from here. Again, Burbank is small—signs are easy to read, distances are short, and I was at my gate before I could even pull out my boarding pass again. 

Boarding was a bit chaotic, but only in the sense that there was a bunch of fanfare since it was the inaugural flight. Normally, I imagine it’s as simple as walking out onto the tarmac and up the ramp to the front door of the aircraft.

Avelo aircraft interior

Katherine Alex Beaven

Cabin and Seat

Currently, Avelo is flying revamped Boeing 737-800s from Burbank outfitted with a nose-to-tail 189-seat coach class cabin (from HVN, it plans to fly 737-700s). Bathrooms are basic, tight, have a teal and white faux-tile floor, and are located, one each, at the front and rear of the aircraft. Aisles are narrow, but nothing feels overly cramped (that said, the middle seat in my row was empty). 

Seats are your typical three-by-three configuration and have a stiff but contemporary slimline design—and, more importantly, are comfortable enough to do the trick for short-haul flights. They’re also pretty barebones. Don’t expect to find any in-flight magazines, screens in the seatbacks, headrests, or power ports—and the only in-arm control button is for seat recline. 

However, I found the legroom at my seat felt unexpectedly roomy (I’m 5 foot, 6 inches.)—so much so that I did a post-flight check to make sure I hadn’t been in one of the seats with more designated legroom (nope). The majority of Avelo’s seats come standard with 29 inches of pitch (about an inch below the average pitch on a typical major carrier), and passengers have the option of paying extra for one of the 60 or so seats with two or five more inches of legroom. Recline? It felt lengthy but unnecessary, so I flew without using it (though it’s not hard to imagine it would cramp the style of the person behind you). 

Bringing down the seatback tray table doesn’t encroach on personal space unless it is fully extended. However, while sturdy enough to hold drinks, snacks, and an iPad no problem, it’s questionable whether a fully extended tray table is up to the task of supporting something like a weighty laptop.

Entertainment and In-Flight Amenities

As a low-cost carrier, in-flight amenities are scarce—in fact, they’re almost nonexistent. As mentioned, there were no seatback entertainment screens or an entertainment app, for that matter. Onboard Wi-Fi is on the list, though it hadn’t been rolled out as of the first flight (a rep told TripSavvy they anticipate having it available by 2022). 

Currently, Avelo's longest nonstop flights still come in around the two-and-a-half-hour mark, so the lack of provided entertainment options is survivable for most; the lack of power points is actually more of a concern, especially for anyone who has downloaded anything to watch onto their device.

Avelo in-flight food offering

Katherine Alex Beaven

Food and Beverage

Again, as a low-cost carrier, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of food and drink, and I definitely wasn’t expecting anything that didn’t come with an extra charge. However, much to my surprise, about 30 minutes after takeoff, cabin crew began doling out “simply snackable” packs containing a Purell sanitizing wipe, small eight-ounce bottles of water, and Lorne Doone shortbread cookies. 

How long these shrink-wrapped snack packs will be offered—or free—is anyone’s guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Avelo started charging for them eventually or replacing them with a wider selection of items for purchase. Rumor has it that there are also plans to offer alcohol on board once they receive their liquor license.

Service

On a short 85-minute flight with limited food and beverage service and no entertainment options, there wasn’t a lot of interaction with the cabin crew. That said, they were all friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be there and to help out when called upon.

Overall Impressions

Even before the flight landed, I was plotting out just how to take advantage of Avelo’s low fares and secondary market destinations, even if that meant planning a trip—even just a quick day or weekend trip—around the airline’s schedule and routing. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an airline I’d want to fly exclusively, but the price and experience are right for certain types of trips.

It’s worth mentioning that, while Avelo doesn’t price gouge as much as other budget carriers, not everything is included in your low fare—but the extras are actually fairly reasonable. Expect to pay more for reserved seating, seating with extra legroom, checked bags, carry-on bags you expect to store in the overhead bins, priority boarding privileges, and when you bring a pet on board.

Overall, the easy connectivity, no-hassle travel experience, and low fares offered by Avelo feel like a treat—and you know what they say: treat yourself.

Article Sources
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  1. Airways Mag. "Avelo Airlines Announces East Coast Base in New Haven." May 6, 2021

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