The countdown is on as Avelo Airlines prepares for its first scheduled flights out of Wilmington-New Castle Airport (ILG).
The first flight – a nonstop to Orlando – is slated for Feb. 1. Later in the week, flights to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Meyers, Tampa and West Palm Beach are scheduled.
Avelo will start out with three flights a week to Orlando and twice weeklies to the other nonstops on its ILG schedule. Avelo will base one of its 15 Boeing 737 jets at ILG and plans to employ about 30 here.
Passenger traffic from Wilmington will be closely watched in aviation circles to see if Avelo’s can reverse the long-running failure of airlines to make a go of it from New Castle. The same scrutiny applies to Breeze, another upstart airline with a similar business plan in place. Breeze has about two dozen jets. Its nearest destination to Delaware is in the New York metro area.
Long-term success for both airlines will require luck, patience, good customer service, and building out a network that allows small market customers to connect to other popular destinations. That’s a tall order.
Frontier Airlines, which took two swings at service at ILG, fell short in dealing the above issues. Google Alerts frequently picks up news of cities that Frontier drops like a hot rock. Frontier is growing rapidly with new aircraft deliveries and is known to roll the dice in adding destinations.
Frontier has been modestly successful at the Trenton-area airport and offers nonstops to eight cities. It fared even better in Philadelphia and now has flights to more than 30 cities. The success in Philadelphia pretty much doomed any effort to build a schedule out of New Castle-Wilmington.
Avelo has been more aggressive than Frontier on the marketing front with ticket giveaways and promotional fares through chambers of commerce and the airport operated by the Delaware River and Bay Authority. It also helps that fuel prices have come down from last year’s highs.
So far, it appears that Avelo’s decision to fly out of the once desolate New Haven airport is working out, with 10 non-stop destinations, including a half-dozen in Florida. It’s also true that the southern New England city and home of Yale University is not as close to a major airport as ILG, which for many northern Delaware passengers is a short drive away.
One advantage will come with parking since PHL’s terminal parking has one of the highest fees in the nation. As Avelo pointed out when announcing the Delaware launch, its base fares (baggage and seat assignments come with an added fee) are cheaper than an Uber ride to Philly.
Time to fly Southwest?
After its post-holiday operations meltdown, passengers may avoid Southwest Airlines.
The Dallas-based airline expects to see the after-effects from the wave of flight cancelations that led to a fourth-quarter loss at the normally profitable carrier. Southwest plans to spend large sums on upgrades and technology to correct glitches in flight crew scheduling and related areas that contributed to its temporary collapse.
It is also enduring jokes on late-night talk shows and the Saturday Night Live sketch below.
Based on a recent trip, avoiding Southwest would amount to an over-reacton. The airline seems to be focused on getting things right. It is also worth looking at the long-term picture. When it comes to customer complaints per 100,000 passengers, Southwest ranks 15th with Frontier No. 1. Southwest will move up on the list, but has typically performed better than many of its peers.
It’s also focused on the little things. When the WiFi system did not work on one flight, Southwest automatically issued a refund.
Flights were on time until we got to Atlanta, where we were greeted with a one-hour delay on the last flight of the night to Philadelphia.
The hold-up appeared to be related to summoning a crew, one of the factors cited in the late 2022 meltdown.
On Friday night, a ramp agent walked through the boarding area, apologized for the delay and reported that a pilot and first officer were on their way. The crew arrived and the delay was cut to 40 minutes. Another airline might have taken a more leisurely approach, but Southwest is well aware it is under the microscope and acted accordingly.
Copa to add flights to Panama hub from Baltimore-Washington
Copa Airlines will launch service from Panama City, Panama to Baltimore starting on June 28.
The launch of the new route in BWI is part of Copa’s expansion of its network in North America. BWI joins 13 other airports served by the Airline in the United States including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, Tampa, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Copa operates a hub in Panama City that offers connections to Latin America. The airline has more than 80 Boeing 737 jets.
“We welcome Copa Airlines and this new international service,” said Ricky Smith, executive director of BWI Marshall Airport. “Copa will link Maryland and the National Capital Region with the rich culture of Panama and offer easy connections across Latin America. We look forward to new tourism and economic development opportunities as a result of this partnership.”
Copa will offer four flights a week from BWI to Panama. – Doug Rainey
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