[caption id="attachment_232726" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Delaware River & Bay Authority Executive Director Thomas Cook and Avelo Air Head of People and Customer Service Vicky Stennes introduce the new routes to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Sarasota, Fla. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
WILMINGTON — Under a white tent on the Wilmington Airport tarmac, Avelo Airlines and Delaware leaders waved Puerto Rican flags. They sipped blended beverages and snacked on frituras while enjoying live music and live dance performances.The festival-like atmosphere outside the airport was to celebrate what Delaware River & Bay Authority Deputy Director Stephen Williams called “the worst kept secret in the world:” Avelo has added Puerto Rico and Sarasota, Fla., to its roster.“No surprises here,” Williams said to a large crowd on Thursday morning. “Here we are again, doing what we love to do — promoting our growing air service here in Wilmington.”
[caption id="attachment_229450" align="alignleft" width="300"] Avelo Airlines made its inaugural flight from Delaware less than a year ago, but the airline is now introducing its 15th destination. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DRBA[/caption]
In six months since flying its first plane out of the First State, Avelo has found quick success. The upstart Houston-based airline has found quick success with the first flights from the airport off U.S. Route 13 in New Castle to five destinations in Florida.Now with 125,000 travelers flown out of Wilmington to 14 destinations, including Nashville, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C., Avelo Airlines will begin to offer routes to San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) in Florida starting in November. One-way fares from Delaware to San Juan start at $99 on Nov. 2. One-way fares to and from Sarasota Bradenton start at $49 on Nov. 15.The news comes to little surprise as Avelo Airlines announced on Aug. 1 that flights out of the Tweed-New Haven Airport in Connecticut would land in San Juan. But Avelo Head of People and Customer Service Vicky Stennes noted that the Delaware and the Philadelphia region has a large Puerto Rican community.The 2021U.S. Census figures show that 29,914 Puerto Ricans in the state were 3% of Delaware’s population and the second-largest Hispanic or Latino group after Mexicans (38,020 people).“We are confident that's going to be an easier, more affordable and reliable way to visit family and friends. When you’re right around the corner, we’re pretty certain that Puerto Rico will become a top vacation destination for travelers across the region,” Stennes said during the kick-off celebration.“We’ve come a long way,” she added. “We’ve grown our fleet to Boeing next-generation aircrafts, and we’re updating to a 189-seat aircraft. We’ve hired 100 people here, and they are the soul of this service. We couldn’t be more proud.”Gov. John Carney noted that while Avelo’s continued success in the state opens more tourism opportunities to and from Delaware, the route to Puerto Rico hits the heart of one of “Delaware’s strongest communities” that has roots on the island that has faced hardship since Hurricane Maria.“I know many people in this room that were instrumental in helping folks on the island recover,” the governor said. “If this route existed back then, it would have made it a whole lot easier. This destination to San Juan provides an opportunity for those family connections that are so critically important. This is a game changer to the Puerto Rican community, as well as adding a tourist attraction.”For Carlos de los Ramos, chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission, he saw the announcement as a way to further build a cultural and business bridge that transcends the Atlantic Ocean.“I was a little shocked, because I was talking to someone about the announcement, and they said that Avelo is now flying internationally. Puerto Rico is still part of the United States,” de los Ramos told the Delaware Business Times. “This could open up the articles [goods] brought from Puerto Rico and the exchange of business alone, not to mention going to work on the island.”Avelo continues to market heavily in the Philadelphia and Delmarva region, with billboards along major highways and heavily-traveled corners of cities like Wilmington. Stennes is confident in the airliners’ strategy of word-of-mouth and high visibility.“A big part of our model is offering seasonality so we can relocate aircraft resources to other destinations where demand is strong. That way we can continue to maintain a presence and be successful” she said. “Our marketing strategy is really about a deliberate effort to generate brand awareness through our service of being reliable and offering great fares to desirable destinations.”Today, Avelo currently serves a total of 47 destinations across 25 states and Puerto Rico. When asked what is next for Avelo, Stennes hinted more may be on the horizon. Delaware specifically has no northern routes at this time.“We’ve got another big announcement coming from another part of the country. We’re rapidly growing, and we plan to have 16 airplanes by the end of 2024,” she said.
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