It’s not often I get to fly a new airline, but last week, I had the chance to fly Avelo. When the airline first launched with $19 fares, I showed the route map to my kids. I told them they could pick a destination, and I’d take each one of them on an overnight trip wherever they wanted. My son chose Ogden, Utah and his trip was first up. I think he just wanted to cross Utah off his list. How was it? It was easy, and despite some minor nits, it’s exactly what I would have hoped to get from the airline.
Let’s start with the price. We had first booked the trip in June for $94 all-in for both of us. The only extra we paid for was a seat assignment, taking the cheapest seats in the back just so we could make sure we sat together. Since it was just an overnight trip, we knew we could each bring a small personal item onboard for free. We later had to change the date due to camp conflicts. Avelo has no change fee, but the new dates were a bit more expensive. All-in cost for the new dates for both of us: $104.
I knew the worst part of the trip would involve the drive up to Burbank. Since Ogden doesn’t operate on Sunday, we couldn’t do a weekend trip. (I have to work on Cranky Network Weekly Friday night into Saturday.) So we decided to go Thursday to Friday.
Driving up, it took about an hour to get there which wasn’t all that bad. I opted to skip the economy parking lot and pay the big bucks ($23 a day) to park in Lot G. We found a covered spot and walked the 5 minutes into the terminal.
I had checked in on the app, but that app is just not great. I kept trying to sign in and it would kick me back, never finding my reservation. I checked in using the confirmation number and it worked, but it doesn’t display the boarding pass. I could either download (which didn’t work) or I could email myself. I did that and printed it out, not knowing if I had to do that or not. Avelo knows the app isn’t good, and it is working on something better eventually.
Avelo doesn’t have TSA Precheck up and running yet, so we got there a bit earlier than I might have otherwise done. The line for security was short, but it moved slowly. I forgot how annoying it is to travel without Precheck. Shoes off, laptop out, etc. My son had packed a full tube of toothpaste, and the eagle-eyed agent caught it. But that agent looked at him and said, “you know what, it’s fine. Just take it.” That was a delightful show of humanity.
Our gate, B3, was right on the other side of security, but it was crowded as you can see above. So we walked over to B4 which was empty and had plenty of seating to wait it out. I watched our airplane come in from Phoenix/Mesa, and I counted 73 people getting off.
Once they were off, they started boarding us nearly right away. It was a little confusing since they started with boarding group 3 after pre-boarding. I don’t know if that’s because they use stairs in the back in Burbank or not, but we were in group 1. Once they called us, we were ready to go. I asked the agent how full we were and she said we were booked to 117. Not awful, and way better than Phoenix/Mesa.
July 8, 2021
Avelo 107 Lv Burbank 1110a Arr Ogden 2p
Burbank (BUR): Gate B3, Runway 15, Depart 7m Early
Ogden (OGD): Gate 1 and Only, Runway 21, Arrive 13m Early
N801XT (msn 35220), Boeing 737-86N, Standard colors, ~62% Full
Seat 34B, Coach
Flight Time 1h24m
Since we were way in the back, we boarded the rear stairs and were greeted by what I assume was a smiling flight attendant. With a mask on, it’s hard to tell. We found our seats with someone already sitting in the aisle. She got up and let us in and we settled in for the ride.
The seat pitch is nothing to write home about, but of course, we could have paid more if we wanted more legroom. This was perfectly fine for me for what was scheduled to be less than 1.5 hours.
The turn time is longer than it needs to be with these loads. We were boarded up early, made easier by the lack of carry-on bags clogging overhead bins.
We were ready early, and we pushed back early. The flight attendants did their safety briefing and politely told everyone to keep their masks over their noses and mouths. The woman next to me did not get the memo. She never wore her mask properly, and her nose was never covered. She was warned about it before we took off, but she never really complied, and I think the flight attendants did all they should have done since nobody else was actively complaining.
We took off to the south as is usually the case, and we looped around before heading toward Vegas, with one heck of a view of Edwards Air Force Base along the way.
Once at altitude, the seatbelt sign came off and the flight attendants came through with little snack packs.
The woman next to me decided to open up a container of something unidentifiable, and it smelled awful. It also gave her an excuse for taking her mask off entirely. She did not eat quickly.
Avelo has no entertainment onboard and no wifi, and you know what? For a flight this short I loved it. I just looked out the window and enjoyed the view. It was delightful to not have any distractions.
The flight attendants were working their butts off on this flight. They were up and down the aisle constantly collecting trash and just being present. They made very few announcements, only pausing to encourage 2021 grads to sign up for a free ticket giveaway.
The pilots had told us we might have some light to moderate turbulence on the way into Ogden, so they buttoned up early. We hit about 20,000 feet and went into a thin layer of scattered clouds. That’s when the bumps started and it was moderate turbulence much of the way down as we passed the Great Salt Lake.
Once we got lower and away from the mountains, it smoothed out a bit. We landed to the southwest and taxied back to what’s left of the Ogden terminal.
I’m not kidding. There was clearly an old tower on top of the terminal, but that has been partially removed. Walking off the airplane into the heat, we walked through an outdoor area with a playground.
Then we walked through the tiny terminal to the front where people were waiting for rides.
The big problem with Ogden is that you can’t rent a car at the airport. Oh sure, there’s a Hertz counter there, but they don’t staff it. I was told they maybe get 1 or 2 people off a flight, so it’s not worth it. They just told us to call them to come get picked up off our flight. So we did, and they got us, drove us back, and gave us our own car to hit the road.
After a short 24 hours where we visited the Dinosaur Park, the Hill Aerospace Museum, and my highlight of the trip, the Golden Spike National Historical Park, it was time to come back.
Hertz told us that they had some parking spots at the terminal, so we could just leave a car there, drop the key in the drop box, and call them up so they could pick it up. With that done about an hour before our flight, we walked over through the small terminal.
Past the empty Hertz counter on the right was a tiny ticket counter buried behind a huge column.
I had checked us in on our phone, but I hadn’t been able to print out our passes. I asked the counter agent if we needed to print them. She didn’t answer, but instead just asked for my ID. So I guess we did? I’m not sure. She did mention it was booked to 145, so that was a pretty decent load.
With the boarding passes, we walked over to the stapled-on addition to the terminal to go through security. Again they caught my son’s toothpaste, but this time there would be no mercy. It was confiscated after we told him we didn’t have any other place to put it. So be it.
The waiting room was pretty full. Seats were available, but it was crowded, and the two unisex bathrooms right next to the boarding gate aren’t ideally located. It was hectic over there once people started lining up.
They started boarding pretty quickly after our airplane arrived. This time, the flight had more people onboard, and from the looks of it, a lot of them were Ogden-originators. I immediately had a sense of déjà vu.
July 9, 2021
Avelo 108 Lv Ogden 240p Arr Burbank 340p
Ogden (OGD): Gate 1 and Only, Runway 21, Depart 10m Early
Burbank (BUR): Gate B3, Runway 8, Arrive 5m Late
N801XT (msn 35220), Boeing 737-86N, Standard colors, ~75% Full
Seat 34B, Coach
Flight Time 1h29m
This was the same exact aircraft with the same exact cabin crew. We had the same exact seats as well, so it was a very strange feeling. Boarding finished up more than 20 minutes early, but we hung around a bit longer before pushing back 10 minutes early.
There was a taxiway that led to the northern end of the runway, but we taxied down the runway instead and turned around. I guess that taxiway must not be big enough for a 737. Soon after, we were airborne climbing through the murk. Oh, there wasn’t a cloud around, but the smog was just thick. It’s hard to see where the mountains end and the air begins.
We climbed through much calmer skies than the day before and made our way up to cruise. The same friendly crew came by with snack packs and did the same great job. This time, the pilots kept the seatbelt sign on the whole flight, however, and they made the flight attendants sit down for a bit.
The person in front of me decided to recline his seat fully right after takeoff. This should be a criminal offense. I’m told that Avelo will be locking seat recline, so that others don’t have to endure this inhumanity. With tight seat pitch, that’s just not right.
One of the pilots came on to tell us that we were, I can’t remember the word, negotiating or fighting some weather ahead, so it might get bumpy. There was a line of storms, and it turns out that we did a lot of turning to get around the worst of it. Ultimately, we flew right over the top of one part of the line, in between cells, and it was as smooth as could be.
My seatmate on this flight couldn’t have been more pleasant. She and her family were from Ogden — she invited me to stay if I come back — and they were excited to not fly from Salt Lake. They were going all the way to Escondido which, for those not familiar, is very far from Burbank. But they preferred flying to Burbank and driving than driving to Salt Lake and flying to Orange County or San Diego.
We descended over the Antelope Valley before following parallel to the 14 freeway. We were able to spot Vasquez Rocks which we’ve hiked, so my son liked that. We then went just west of the 5/14 interchange which I’ve always found impressive.
That brought us into the valley before turning east with a great view of Van Nuys right below us.
Avelo does not carry your regular Burbank traveler, so the pilots were smart to warn everyone that the runway is short and they apply full brakes. Despite this warning, people were still pretty shocked at the force. My son said he wants to donate some money so they can “fix that runway problem.”
We taxied back and lined up for gate B4, but then we stopped. The pilot came on and said that we were early and they had no marshallers to bring us in, so we had to wait. And wait. At one point the engines revved up and we moved a couple feet, but then we stopped again. Finally after about 20 minutes, we moved over to gate B3. There had been another airplane there, so I’m guessing someone decided we would have to wait until that plane left. In the end, we were 5 minutes late despite getting an early start.
After a fun-filled 1.5 hour drive home, I was glad to be back. Avelo got us to Ogden for cheap, safely, and on-time. What else could we want from this trip? I’m hoping for the same experience for my trip with my daughter. I will, of course, write about that here.