America's newest airline has taken to the sky above California.
Low-cost Avelo Airlines launched operations on Wednesday with an inaugural service from its west coast base of Burbank to Sonoma County Airport, the gateway to California's wine country.
The budget airline has not only launched amid a global pandemic, but is also the first new main airline to begin operations in the US in almost 15 years. The last was Virgin America, which launched in 2007, only to close in 2018.
Serviced by a fleet of Boeing 737s, Avelo Airlines promises leisure travellers friendly service and affordable fares. Its jets can accommodate 189 passengers each, with 60 premium seats offering extra leg-room for those willing to pay more for additional space.
Departing Burbank at 10.30am local time on Wednesday, flight number XP 101 landed in Santa Rosa about 70 minutes later. Onboard the first flight for the new airline was its founder, chief executive and chairman Andrew Levy.
Passengers on the flight wore face masks and adhered to social distancing measures. Refreshments were distributed in sealed packages and all travellers on the historic flight were given a celebratory ticket jacket with a commemorative boarding pass.
Flying from the 'Best Airport' in the US
Avelo Airlines plans to fly to 11 destinations by mid-summer. It is using California's Hollywood Burbank Airport as its hub. The airport was named the best in the US by Fodor's Travel in 2019, and Levy sings its praises.
"No airport is closer to downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Pasadena and southern California's many other attractions than BUR," he said. "As the San Fernando Valley's hometown airport, BUR will give you easy access to an abundance of beautiful and relaxing new non-stop destinations across California and the western US."
Avelo will begin flying to two other destinations in the next few days. On Thursday, it will launch a thrice-weekly service from BUR to the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco, Washington. On Friday, it will start a four-times-a-week service to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Montana, the onramp to Big Sky Country and Yellowstone National Park.
By late May, Avelo will provide non-stop services to 11 other destinations across the western US.
Where can I fly to with Avelo Airlines?
Arcata-Eureka Airport in California: For Victorian charm on the Redwood Coast.
Redmond, Oregon: For snow-capped Cascades surrounded by high desert lands.
Bozeman, Montana: The gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
Eugene, Oregon: Where the Willamette Valley begins.
Grand Junction, Colorado: Where the Colorado River meets red rock landscapes.
Medford, Oregon: A launchpad to the Rogue Valley.
Pasco, Washington: 300 days of sunshine in the heart of Washington's countryside.
Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona: Alternative port for downtown Phoenix.
Ogden, Utah: A convenient Salt Lake City alternative to Utah's famed mountains.
Redding, California: Adventure-seekers' national park playground.
Santa Rosa, California: The gateway to California's wine country.
"People are ready to reconnect with family and friends and explore new places," said Levy. "Avelo is a different and better kind of airline, built from scratch to offer an affordable, convenient and caring travel experience."
As a low-cost airline, Avelo's base fares start from $19. Additional services such as checking in a bag, preselecting a seat and priority boarding are extra, with check-in bags starting from $10 per piece.
Launching an airline in a pandemic
Launching an airline during the global pandemic may seem like bad timing, as several major airlines around the world have grounded fleets or sent aircraft off for storage in long-term parking facilities, and others have retired fleets at aircraft boneyards around the world.
Somewhat surprisingly, Avelo Airlines is not the only new airline that's taken to the skies at this time, however.
In February, low-cost airline Wizz Air Abu Dhabi launched operations from the UAE. Air Arabia Abu Dhabi also began operating during the pandemic, with its inaugural flight to Egypt departing on July 14, 2020.
Other new operations in the pipeline include Flyr, a new Norwegian airline set to begin operations in June, and Iceland's new Play airline, which plans to fly by summertime.
Other US airlines have not fared quite so well amid the pandemic. Miami Air International ceased operations after 29 years of flying, Trans States Airlines stopped flying soon after Covid-19 hit and Ravn Alaska, Alaska's largest regional airline, filed for bankruptcy in April 2020.