Avelo Airlines will use its Wilmington Airport (ILG) playbook for the North Carolina Research Triangle. In February, the airline will add half a dozen Florida destinations (Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Meyers, Sarasota, Tampa and West Palm Beach) from Raleigh-Durham.
Avelo will establish a one-jet base at Carolina Airport, with similar plans for ILG. All of this will take place in February. Wilmington has long been on the tiny airline’s radar, and its founder mentioned the airport as a prime candidate for expansion. Negotiations with the Delaware River and Bay Authority followed, and a February launch date.
The same non-stop destinations, apart from Sarasota, are served two to three times a week from Wilmington, better known as New Castle Airport. Avelo has already had some success, with 25,000 passengers boarding its flights from Raleigh-Durham to its hub in New Haven, Connecticut.
Research Triangle Airport is served by about half a dozen airlines with about 50 non-stop flights. Still, the challenge at ILG is greater because Philadelphia International is 30 to 40 minutes from hundreds of thousands of residents in northern Delaware and offers hundreds of non-stop connections. There are also not-so-pleasant memories of previous attempts to add ILG’s flight service.
The good news for prospective Delaware passengers comes from Avello, which is sticking with a low base fare of $49. In contrast, Frontier, the last airline to fly ILG, offered fares to Orlando roughly equivalent to Philadelphia. It should be noted that Avelo’s $49 fare goes up with seat selection and luggage stuffed in overhead or checked into the hold.
The key will be friendly and reliable service, the patience other airlines lack in building passenger traffic, and intensive marketing efforts to make residents aware that the service exists. The airline and airport operator, the Delaware River and Bay Authority, must promote the service with more than signs on transit buses or a banner outside the airport. A dollar-a-day parking promotion and ticket giveaways are required. In his honor, Wilmington Airport is holding a ticket draw.
As consumers begin to feel the effects of inflation and high interest rates, maintaining flight service will remain an uphill battle. Still, there are few signs of a slowdown in the vacation travel market. – Doug Rainey, Chief Content Officer.