[caption id="attachment_226392" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Avelo Airlines is negotiating to begin flying out of the Wilmington-New Castle Airport by the end of the year, according to state records. | PHOTO COURTESY OF AVELO AIRLINES[/caption]
NEW CASTLE – A new airline is planning to begin flying out of Wilmington-New Castle Airport later this year, just a few months after Delaware lost its last commercial airline.Avelo Airlines, an ultra-low-cost commercial airline launched last year by a veteran airline executive, has negotiated an air service incentive agreement and terminal and airfield use permits with the Delaware River & Bay Authority, the bistate agency that manages the largest commercial airport in Delaware.Based in Houston, Avelo launched in April 2021 and principally flies out of smaller airports like Wilmington. Today, it serves over 30 destinations nationwide with its largest bases at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Burbank Airport, southern Connecticut’s Tweed-New Haven Airport, Fort Myers’ Southwest Florida International Airport and Orlando International Airport.The company reportedly approached the manager of Wilmington’s ILG airport after Frontier Airlines nixed its last attempt at commercial service after less than 18 months. According to airline industry reports, Avelo CEO Andrew Levy, who previously served as a top executive at rival low-cost carrier Allegiant Air, had eyed Wilmington previously as a target for his startup airline.Late last month, the DRBA board unanimously approved an initial one-year contract with Avelo, with nine additional annual renewal options built in if the service succeeds. The airline aims to begin service in Wilmington before the end of the year, but it’s not yet known what the initial destinations may be.Avelo did not respond to requests for comment regarding the impending air service, and a DRBA spokesman declined to comment, saying only that "negotiations are ongoing." The airline would lease the commercial terminal for an initial annual fee of $23,400, with annual increases pegged to inflation should the contract renewals be used, according to the agreement.
[caption id="attachment_226391" align="alignright" width="300"] Avelo Airlines largely serves the East and West coasts in smaller airports. | MAP COURTESY OF AVELO AIRLINES[/caption]
With a large base at Orlando International Airport, it’s possible that Avelo could step in to restart the service abandoned by Frontier as the central Florida city was the only destination served in its last tenure. Avelo also has smaller presences in about a dozen other Eastern cities in addition to its larger bases, but the draw of Disney World, Universal Studios and more theme parks could be enticing.The loss of Frontier in June returned Delaware to the ignominious designation as the only state in the U.S. without commercial passenger air service. It was the seventh airline to try commercial service out of Delaware only to fall by the wayside.In a May statement, the DRBA said it was “disappointed with the decision of Frontier Airlines ownership and management to discontinue scheduled service at Wilmington Airport – ILG prior to the busy summer season.”Frontier flew to Orlando three times a week over its 15 months in service, launched following a prolonged COVID-related delay. In November, it reported that it had surpassed 10,000 commercial flights out of the Wilmington airport, including a monthly high of more than 16,000 passengers in July 2021. While that led the airport to be upgraded to a Primary Commercial Service Airport, entitling it to more federal funding, it apparently was not enough for Frontier to continue.
[caption id="attachment_201658" align="alignleft" width="300"] The Wilmington-New Castle Airport has been without commercial passenger service this summer, but it could return before the end of the year with the introduction of Avelo Airlines. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
The DRBA had sought to secure new commercial service from another provider afterward.“The management and staff of the DRBA continue to believe that scheduled commercial air service can and will succeed at Wilmington Airport – ILG. The airport’s excellent location along the busy I-95 corridor, along with the lowest cost operating environment of any airport in the US, offers customers the opportunity to forego the stress and expense of a big city airport,” DRBA said in May.It noted, however, that “air service is only one aspect of the airport’s overall role and value to the community,” as the airport is also home to corporate aviation, advanced flight training, certain non-aviation businesses, as well as the Delaware Air National Guard. It is also the airport that President Joe Biden frequently flies from in his trips home.“We will continue to promote the many benefits of Wilmington Airport to those airlines who value both low-costs, and an uncongested air traffic and passenger operating experience,” DRBA said.
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