Avelo Sees Mixed Results, Cuts Flight Frequencies

Avelo

Avelo launched service at the end of April with an aggressive focus on Burbank. The initial 11 cities have now been flying at full strength for long enough that I thought it was time to check in and see how they were doing. At first blush, it appears that some markets are doing better than others, though we have no way of knowing if they’re actually doing “well” or not. Some markets clearly are suffering, with the most frequent markets doing the worst… and they won’t be as frequent anymore.

For this exercise, I had to do some manual hunting and pecking. I went to the Avelo website and pulled up the selling fare on all departures from Burbank, sorted by destination. I didn’t bother looking at return fares to Burbank since departures would give me enough information. It’s not a perfect metric either way, so I opted for simplicity.

This is far from scientific since the airline could — as unlikely as it may be– have different revenue management strategies for different destinations that are masked when using this crude method of scanning the website. But just because it isn’t perfect doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at the information that’s available. Based on this info, I’d lump the routes into three categories.

Red is worst, orange is middle, green is best.

Avelo performance map generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

How do I get to this conclusion? Again, it’s based on lowest selling fare for each flight in July along with some other observations about frequency changes. It may not be perfect, but it still seems to be rather telling. Let’s start with the most interesting routes, the red ones that seem to be struggling the most.

For all of these charts, I took the lowest selling fare on the dates that a flight operates in a market. Then I did a distribution showing what percent of fares in each market fall under each pricepoint for the month of July. Fares ranged from $39 to $129 with the highest fares being around the upcoming 4th of July weekend, as you would expect. Here is the spread for the four weakest fare markets.

July 2021 Selling Fare Percentage by Flight – Weaker Performers

Data pulled from Aveloair.com on July 29, 2021

Phoenix/Mesa looks to be an absolutely awful performer here. Yes, Avelo has moved off its intro $19 fares in all markets, but the bland email marketing message I got on Tuesday — they come like clockwork Tuesday and Thursday whether useful or not — says sale fares are starting at $49. Apparently Phoenix/Mesa is so bad that fares actually start even lower than the published sale.

If that’s not bad enough, this was one of the markets that was supposed to operate every day, but that is no longer the case. After early July, it drops Tuesday/Wednesday/Saturday flying so it will now operate only 4x weekly. All that competition into Phoenix/Sky Harbor is certainly suppressing fares, and so frequencies are getting cut.

Next up on the list is the airline’s inaugural route to Santa Rosa. They were high on this market, and yes, the fares are much better than Phoenix/Mesa. But again, after early July, flights have been pulled on Tuesday/Wednesday/Saturday so it will also only operate 4x weekly. Alaska is in the market, but it maintains higher fares than the competition in the Phoenix bloodbath. Still, the off-peak days have not filled up enough to survive.

The last of the frequency losers is Ogden which was operating 6x weekly. It has done a little better on fares with more higher-fare dates than the other two, but it will, with rare exception, now not fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in addition to Sundays when it already wasn’t going to fly.

I have also lumped Medford into this group despite it not losing frequency. It probably helps that Medford was already operating only 4x weekly. Still, its fares tend to skew lower than other markets, even if it has some flashes of success.

I reached out to Avelo asking for comment on whether the frequency reductions were operational or commercial, and they snuck a response in just before the deadline. Jim Olson, Head of Communications for Avelo, said this:

Heading into the holiday weekend our load factors are the highest to date and we are very encouraged by the close-in booking trend we are observing as the peak summer travel season hits its stride. Our load factors continue to climb as awareness builds. 

Like all airlines, we are going to be continuously adjusting our schedule – adding and removing capacity to match demand and seasonal shifts. We expect to reallocate some of this capacity with new service this fall. 

That is some expert word-torturing there, but in short, it’s not an operational problem. This is a commercial move.

Now, let’s move on to the decent performers.

July 2021 Selling Fare Percentage by Flight – Mid-Range Performers

Data pulled from Aveloair.com on July 29, 2021

You can see on this chart that the bulk of fares are in the middle of the range. Bozeman has a Sunday problem which in theory should be ok, because while nobody is going to Bozeman on Sunday, loads of people should be coming home. Looking at Bozeman Sunday departures, however, we see $49, $59, $59, and $69 in July, so that’s not encouraging either.

The others seem to be getting higher fares, but then again, markets like these tend to be less competitive. than a Phoenix or Santa Rosa. So it’s really hard to place these exactly.

Now, let’s move on to the winners.

July 2021 Selling Fare Percentage by Flight – Best Performers

Data pulled from Aveloair.com on July 29, 2021

Who would have thought that the fares would appear to be highest in the triumvirate of Arcata/Eureka, Bend/Redmond, and Pasco?

Just to get another datapoint, I looked at today’s flight to Pasco yesterday morning and saw only 15 seats still available on the seat map. The Bend flight had 21. (Arcata/Eureka doesn’t operate today, so seats hadn’t been allocated yet for those who didn’t pre-purchase them.) Ogden, meanwhile, has 64 open and Phoenix/Mesa has 119. That seems to sum it up quite nicely.

It’s hard to me to say whether Arcata/Eureka, Bend, and Pasco are doing well. They just appear to be doing better than the rest considering the relative pricing strength. At the very least, it seems that Avelo has an off-peak problem and more changes will be coming as it struggles to find its place.

25 comments on “Avelo Sees Mixed Results, Cuts Flight Frequencies

  1. I find this shocking. Am gobsmacked! An airline with a ludicrous, laughable business model not performing well, weeks into its operation! What has the industry become!

    1. Since flights from New Haven haven’t even begun yet, I suspect BUR is doing rather better!

      1. Actually it’s probably the opposite because HVN hasn’t started losing money yet.

    2. SEAN – We don’t even know the New Haven routes yet, but I’m thinking it’ll do better when the focus is likely to be Florida.

  2. Jim Olsen name is familiar because he was the UA comms guy during Dr. Dao.

    Curious: how do these fares compare to Allegiant fares? Also, how much are these newcomers hurt by not being available on OTAs or metasearch sites? (I saw that Breeze is in Google Flights.)

    1. EMac – Allegiant doesn’t fly to Burbank so we can’t really compare. But LA to Bozeman, for example, runs only 2x weekly on Allegiant and it’s really cheap in July, lower than this. But that’s just one route.

  3. I am actually curious about two things. One, are these flights on Travelocity, or wherever non-av geek folks buy their tickets now days? Like do they show up as a air/hotel/car bundle? Or is this a “You have to know Avelo exist” type of thing?

    Also, whats the rental car situation like? If I fly to Phoenix Mesa, can I even get a rental car? At what cost, from who? Same with STS. The press leads me to believe that getting a car is near impossible at any cost. This would dramatically affect my choice to fly. What the point of a $79 fare if the car cost $140 a day.

    1. Midweek in July at AZA is ~$80 a day, PHX ~$60, STS ~$100 a day, SFO is also $100 a day. Holy hell.

      1. I’m used to thinking of $30-40/day or ~$200/week for car rental reference prices, but I just booked a car for ~$100 a day (after shopping around a good bit) out of TVC (Traverse City) in Northern Michigan in the last week of August.

        Not cheap, especially when the car will basically only be used for the airport to the lake and a grocery run on the way, but can’t get an Uber or Lyft in those parts, so it is what it is.

        There were rumors that rental cars in parts of Hawaii were in such short supply that tourists were resorting to renting U-Haul trucks, but not sure how true those were.

        1. @Kilroy, I’m in the middle of spending a month with my elderly parents, north of Boston (almost in New Hampshire). I wasn’t able to lock down a rental car early because my plans were likely to change a day or two. As a result, while I wasn’t paying attention, rental rates at Boston/Logan for the 33 day rental jumped from a pandemic low of under $500 to a vacation frenzy high of around $4000. My hometown Hertz’ prices were jumping up and down, varying from $1200 to $4000. This was for a midsize or full size car.

          I finally caught my hometown Hertz at the lower end of the price range. They live too far out for any airport shuttle or Uber/Lyft, but I found a new commuter/airport bus service that would get me close, for $35 round trip. I had to get my brother, who is really busy with work, to come pick me up at the bus station two towns over and to drop me off when I return. I’ve seen high rental car prices at Boston/Logan over the last 40 years, but nothing like this.

          Boston/Logan is usually on the high side for rental car prices, but occasionally are competitive with my hometown rental car places. Previously, I’d compare airport and hometown rental car prices. If the savings justified it (>$220), I would take a limo service that would drop me off at my parents’ house and rent in my hometown rather than at the airport. Like many small businesses that struggled through lockdown, the limo service raised their prices, from $220 round trip to $340 round trip.

          I hope the automotive chip shortage resolves itself soon so more new cars can be manufactured, allowing rental car agencies to replenish their fleets. Current forecasts are towards the end of 2021. I’m sure plenty of people have recently experienced extreme rental car sticker shock when planning their vacations.

    2. Jeremy – Avelo is in Google Flights, and that was its primary plan for third party. Otherwise you have to know it exists.

  4. For what it’s worth, Redmond/Bend is presumably benefiting from summer travelers headed to the mountains. If you were to do this analysis in October or April, the numbers might tell a different story. (No doubt this applies to quite a few other markets on their route map also.)

    1. Jim – Unfortunately we can’t look in October or April, because they haven’t extended their schedule out beyond September yet.

    2. Pasco is far enough from other airports that it kinda makes sense. And the closest ones (YKM, PDT) don’t exactly offer a ton of nonstop options. GEG is about a 2 hr. drive away.

  5. I am extremely skeptical of a business model that relies on secondary airport to secondary airport travel (yes, Burbank is a secondary airport), especially in markets where people can easily drive (like LA to Phoenix). As someone else mentioned, if you can’t get a rental car, what’s the point of flying when you can easily drive.

    I am not surprised by the relative strength of Arcata/Eureka. My brother lived there for years, and the options to fly were horrible. Basically, the only option back then were flights to SFO on United Express, and it was EXPENSIVE.

    1. I think for secondary airports, BUR isn’t as bad as many others. It’s not like its one of those out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere airports that’s convenient to almost nobody, like the situation in Montreal with Mirabel vs Dorval. BUR is still located within the LA metro area and there’s plenty of people in the area who would find BUR much more convenient than LAX, especially since Avelo is nominally targeting the LA/Burbank market, rather than trying to bring people from other areas to LA (which was the model that Allegiant found success with, bringing people from small towns to big destinations).

  6. I live very close to AZA and looked into them in the beginning as an inexpensive and convenient way to get to LA for a weekend trip without the hassle of Sky Harbor. However, their schedule stinks. The flight leaves Burbank at 7 am and returns at 9 am. That’s it! I think if they had a better schedule, they would do better.

  7. Why not go cross country with some routes?

    Eg no one is offering SF or Burbank to Buffalo. JetBlue a few years back launched daily LAX-BUF flights and I understand they’ve been a hit.

    Sacramento too. Growing area – booming actually with Bay area (high-priced SF/OAK) refugees 1.5 hours away. On way to very popular Tahoe.

    Eg. Sacramento – Detroit. Delta used to fly it I think daily, now they don’t.

    Detroit, and especially Buffalo, are increasingly desirable airports for booming megapolis Toronto. Former is 3.5 hours away (suburbs of GTA), whereas Buffalo is 1.5 hours away from suburbs. Right now, you can’t fly into Canada without going to a quarantine hotel. If you drive over border, you don’t have to. So the taxi services are doing a booming business, really really strong demand. The ubers/taxis can drive over border as essential service.

    Bellingham too may hold appeal for Vancouver. But Allegiant I think has a stranglehold.

    Anyways, more cross country type flights please!

    1. You don’t want a cross-country flight that packs 189 seats into a 737-800. The cheap seats have 29″ of very lightly padded seat pitch (per reviews from folks who’ve flown Avelo).

      WIth that said, Mox…er…Breeze might be able to make the markets you’re talking about work once they get A220s in. Betting they don’t go lower than 30″ pitch on the 220s (they do 29″ on their E90s), so that wouldn’t be too bad of a transcon. Plus, much easier to fill 130 seats than 189.

  8. I can’t see how anyone can fill a plane from far east Mesa to Burbank profitably. BUR really isn’t a great place for a hub, especially with so few flights. I hope Avelo has lots of cash, they will need it.

  9. I’m surprised Cranky overlooked this “nugget”. Over the last few weeks, Avelo’s “friends” at Southwest have been offering last minute, no advance purchase “Wanna Get Away” fares on the BUR-PHX for as little as $39 one way. I needed to go to PHX for a one day trip last week and paid $54 outbound and $39 for the return, literally booked less than 24 hours in advance. Had me thinking that this was in response to Avelo and not a lack of demand on the part of Southwest.

    FWIW, upon arrival that morning at WN’s PHX terminal 4, all three concourses were extremely busy. I had the chance to visit two concourses – swamped with passengers. The return in the evening – I walked all three concourses, and every gate was full of passengers – and noticeable delays on the monitors – so much that evening, passengers were camped out adjacent to the moving walkways separating each of the three concourses. Lines up the wazoo for food, bar and sundries/snacks at the various overpriced outlets.

    So, it’s not that Southwest needs to stimulate traffic in the BUR-PHX market, rather, they are using the Southwest Snakehold on a new competitor. Thanks Southwest for the very last minute low fares! My budget appreciated it.

    SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT

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Cranky Flier