We took the first flight on Avelo from New Castle Airport. Here's what it was like.
Susan Marx sat in a single row of seats next to the check-in area in the New Castle Airport terminal Wednesday morning. She waited there for a few moments for her son to arrive. Once he made it, they walked about 25 steps to the security line. Then they were ready to board their flight.
“You can’t get lost,” she said.
Avelo Airlines started its commercial service from Delaware with an inaugural flight from the New Castle Airport to Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday morning. The company is making the small airport, which supports much private aviation and Air National Guard functions but has a limited history with commercial success, its next home base.
Avelo positions itself similar to Frontier Airlines as a low-cost, no-frills alternative to airline giants like American and Delta. After a little more than a year of flying to Orlando a few times a week, Frontier pulled out of the New Castle Airport last June.
Avelo believes its embrace of smaller airports as its sole focus will make a significant difference.
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The company is offering flights from the airport on Route 13 six days a week to five Florida destinations. Since announcing the service in October, Avelo has promoted a $49 introductory rate for its cheapest flights. The rate is before fees and add-ons.
But beyond the fare, the appeal for many of Wednesday’s passengers was convenience. Parking, going through security and finding your flight’s terminal are all less of a chore compared with experiences at the Philadelphia and Baltimore airports.
The only complication for late arrivers was physically passing through the mob of people in suits assembled between the check-in desk and security there to celebrate the start of Avelo’s service and gawk at the white-and-purple plane parked outside.
Some passengers were unaware the 10 a.m. flight was Avelo’s first from Delaware and were surprised by the goodie bags, balloons that spelled “Hello Avelo,” and television cameras. But on a normal day, as Marx put it, “it’s much more cozy in here.”
I was one of several reporters and bloggers invited on the flight to Orlando – and back – to get a taste of the Avelo experience. Here’s what I saw.
Parking and walking in
Although a series of fees will balloon the price tag you see in advertisements, the airport’s parking is cheaper than nearby airports. The New Castle Airport charges $8 a day to park directly in front of the terminal.
Heading south on Route 13, I drove past the first entrance as directed to the second entrance marked for airport parking. Heading north you take a left across traffic at School Lane.
After a short turn through the lot, I reached a gate arm. It has a button to push for a ticket that’s payable on the way out. Cash is not accepted.
Cabot and Connie Wright stood in the lobby next to a floor-to-ceiling window that displayed the parking lot in clear view. They were on their way to Disney World with their daughter, son-in-law and their children.
“This is so convenient,” Cabot Wright said.
Bags, fees, security and waiting to board
The check-in and bag drop area is to the right of the terminal entrance. Avelo’s flights do not include checked bags or carry-on bags. Both cost $40 when booked ahead of time with your flight reservation and $50 when booked at the airport.
Avelo flights come with an "electronic carrier usage charge" of up to $27. Priority boarding and seat selection also cost a premium ($15 and $11 and up depending on the seat).
The airport has one security line to the left of the entrance. Even with a full flight, the line didn’t build significantly. It spills out to a small waiting area. There are two sections of seats divided by the security line and a wall.
There are no concessions at the airport save for a vending machine in the lobby.
On the way to Orlando, I sat next to Brenda Newsome, a woman from Pennsville, New Jersey, in an emergency exit row. She said she spent $159, including seat upgrades and priority boarding. She was surprised to see me sitting in the window seat – she said the diagram when she booked showed only two seats in the emergency row.
Newsome has had both of her knees replaced, which sets off security machines. In Philadelphia, she is directed to a separate machine that can account for her knees. In New Castle, she was subjected to a thorough pat down.
“It’s degrading,” Newsome said.
The Avelo flight was her fourth time trying to get to Orlando from New Castle. Frontier canceled her flight three times, she said. The flights were victims of aerial “Joe Jams” – each time President Joe Biden was flying home, which led to air space restrictions.
Boarding the plane
Avelo boards by group number, which is found on the boarding pass. I was group 1, which followed the priority boarders and families traveling with small children.
After scanning my boarding pass, I walked out a door and followed a path around the tarmac. It led to a set of steps up to the plane.
The plane, which will be based at the New Castle Airport, is a Boeing 737-700 painted white with purple “Avelo” lettering.
Me walking onto the first Avelo flight from the ILG Airport.
I’ve already committed the cardinal sin of talking to people about to fly. pic.twitter.com/pGHNyXZ1qb
— Brandon Holveck (@holveck_brandon) February 1, 2023
It was not the brand-new plane the company showed to media and government officials when it announced its Delaware service in October.
The overhead compartments open from the bottom up and the leg room is sparse.
The seat backs and windows showed signs of age. There are no power outlets, television screens or internet access.
After pushing off from the gate, the plane sat idle for about 10 minutes to deice. It was about 30 degrees in northern Delaware on Wednesday morning with traces of overnight snow on the ground. It was 83 degrees when we arrived in Orlando.
The flight and the flight home
As passengers cleared security amid the hoopla of Avelo and airport executives and local politicians, one man asked if there would be complimentary cocktails on the flight. There were not.
The only in-flight freebie each way was an 8-ounce plastic water bottle. Avelo doesn’t sell any food or beverages on flights.
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The flight to Orlando was scheduled for two hours and 14 minutes. We arrived about 15 minutes behind schedule due to the deicing.
After unloading, about a third of the passengers reboarded for the return trip about 15 minutes later. The flight home was predominately Avelo employees and media members. There was also at least one self-titled influencer and a few people who took the first roundtrip for fun.
The flight home was scheduled for one hour and 54 minutes. We arrived on time. A few minutes later, I was on the road.
Contact Brandon Holveck at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @holveck_brandon.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Parking, fees, bags: How to fly Avelo from Delaware