Avelo Works Around the New Haven Bottleneck

Avelo

Avelo has announced its initial schedule for service at its second base, New Haven, and this airport will be structured differently than Burbank for a few reasons. First, there is very limited space, but second, the flight times are longer. You can see pretty clearly how the puzzle has been put together for the first month, but it looks like growth is likely to be coming soon after.

One of the great things about New Haven is that it is highly constrained. This gives Avelo the ability to basically take over the terminal, preventing others from serving the airport until the new, larger terminal is built a few years down the line. But one of the bad things about New Haven is that… it’s highly constrained.

With few flights possible, Avelo has done the smart thing and decided to point its airplanes south toward the bottomless pit of demand that is Florida. It is also focusing on primary airports in Florida which I see as a very good thing since New Haven is secondary. You don’t want secondary airports on both ends… and this is obviously very different than what Avelo is doing in Burbank.

You’d think for a heavy leisure airline like Avelo, you’d want to schedule as many flights in the morning down to Florida as you can and then return in the afternoon. The terminal space and aircraft utilization say otherwise. So, here’s what the airline is doing starting in November:

  • Fort Lauderdale (Mon/Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun): 9am departure south, 12:10pm departure north
  • Fort Myers (Thu/Sun): 2:30pm departure south, 6:30pm departure north
  • Orlando (Mon/Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun): 7:30am departure south, 11:05am departure north
  • Tampa (Mon/Fri/Sat): 2:30pm departure south, 6:15pm departure north

If you look in graphical form, you can see that Avelo is scheduling two airplanes, and one is being scheduled for only half the day.

This is the schedule Avelo announced, but what it didn’t say is that this schedule ends on December 6 and it looks like a third aircraft will be scheduled starting that day. The number of flights won’t change… yet… but the schedules sure do.

  • Fort Lauderdale (Mon/Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun): 8:30am departure south, 12:20pm departure north
  • Fort Myers (Thu/Sun): 2:25pm departure south, 6:25pm departure north
  • Orlando (Mon/Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun): 10am departure south, 1:35pm departure north
  • Tampa (Mon/Fri/Sat): 3:55pm departure south, 7:40pm departure north

The way that Avelo has put together these flights, there is never a departure from New Haven within 1.5 hours of another. There is never more than one airplane on the ground at a time… except for the overnight sits. That’s probably due to the crushingly small footprint of the gate area. In fact, here’s a photo I took of a traveler entering the terminal.

Up until now, the only flight operating at the airport was American with a 5x weekly run to Philly on a regional jet. That ends on September 30, and then Avelo moves in a month later, but Avelo’s airplanes hold about double American’s with 147 seats, so it’s going to be quite the dance to make all this work.

At first blush, this schedule looked rather odd to me since it underutilizes three airplanes. On Thursday and Sunday the flights all overlap, so each airplane will do one roundtrip. But then I put this into graphical form and it made more sense.

Purple flights are scheduled, turquoise flights are not

In Burbank, there are more gates and the flights are shorter, so you see airplanes running up to three roundtrips per day. But for New Haven to Florida, flights run in the 3 hour range, and that means they’ll be lucky to squeeze two roundtrips in.

It looks like Fort Lauderdale gets the prime spot with the first scheduled morning departure. Orlando gets second place with the next available one. Why not keep Orlando earlier like it was originally? Well, I’m guessing it figures the early return time isn’t great, so it’s better to do a later morning flight down with an early afternoon return. Having the third airplane enables that.

But whenever a 7am departure does appear, that looks like it’ll fit perfectly to turn into the afternoon Fort Myers roundtrip (two days a week). And then Tampa turns off the Fort Lauderdale airplane three days a week.

With spacing requirements, Avelo can get 6 departures per day using 3 airplanes. If we assume that Avelo does not want to operate on Tuesday/Wednesday, that means it could double the number of flights it has scheduled now from 15x weekly to 30x weekly… if it’s willing to operate at less-peak times.

On Monday/Friday/Saturday, it has one aircraft that’s entirely unscheduled, so that could do an early morning departure and a mid-afternoon second trip. There is also room for the Orlando airplane to turn somewhere else once it gets back in the afternoon.

On Thursday/Sunday, Avelo could plug in a 7am departure before the airplane turns to Fort Myers. It can also schedule an afternoon departure off both the Fort Lauderdale and Orlando flights when those get back after their morning runs.

The other option here is to try to do something that’s a shorter flight, but that starts getting sticky. For example, after the 10am flight to Orlando goes, Avelo could schedule a flight at 11:30am on Monday/Friday/Saturday. It would just have to be back and gone again by 2:25pm to make room for the next airplane. That isn’t enough time to do anything useful.

I’m sure there are other ways to try to construct this with non-Florida destinations, but the terminal constraints are going to cause real headaches. Help is on the way to some extent, and it doesn’t require waiting for the new terminal to eventually get built. Avelo spokesperson Jim Olson told me that the airline “should have terminal build out complete by December which will accommodate more robust schedule.” That’s all temporary work, but how much more it will allow remains to be seen.

Of course, if Avelo finds itself desperately trying to find room for more capacity, that will be a very nice problem for the airline to have.

15 comments on “Avelo Works Around the New Haven Bottleneck

  1. I don’t see the schedule times between HVN & FL as a problem. As you said, it’s a bottomless pit & people will fly at any time of day. Prior to the pandemic there were so many flights between NYC & MIA/ FLL/ PBI that you could almost show up at a terminal & jump on one like it was a subway line. The same could be said for LAS & LAX/ BUR/ LGB/ ONT/ SNA/ SAN.

  2. I actually like what they are doing in New Haven much more than Burbank and I think it’s going to have a far greater chance of success. The catchment area, the demand and airport constraints all add up to what I think will be a successful model. They just need to ensure they can execute operationally but I’m optimistic about their chances at HVN. On the other hand, I think they’re going to continue to struggle in BUR.

    Also, your terminal photo had my laugh out loud. Well done!

    1. They could probably succeed in HVM by simply running the planes back and forth to MCO but it’s probably smarter to try to establish a broader Florida footprint from the beginning.

  3. Cranky – why do you think American still wants to bail out of HVN? I would have thought a legacy carrier with a network and premium class seating would pair well with a ULCC as traffic at the airport increases. There’s still a lot of wealth in southern CT (and Yale traffic) so I bet they could fill an E170 at least once a day – especially now that the airport and Avelo are spending their money to remind everyone in the area that HVN is an option.

    1. Sam – It’s a good question. This route was doing poorly for American long before Avelo got there. This was one of the markets that American threatened to leave if the government didn’t extend PSP funding last year.
      It has just never done well. American had dropped it to a bare minimum as required by PSP of only 5x weekly flights. With PSP finally ending, American decided to cut some cities that were on the initial list. New Haven was one of them.

      1. The last 3 months the American flights n and out of New Haven have been just shy of 80 % load factors.

  4. I wonder how they can find flight crews to operate these flights. They are limited to unemployed pilots living in the HVN area as there is no commuting option for pilots and FAs to get to HVN. Small hurdle but its what my mind immediately jumped to.

    1. New Haven is on a Metro North line from grand central, making it a relatively painless commute from the New York airports, and about an hours drive from BDL.

  5. United used to run a 737 from ORD to HVN, and there was even a jetway for the plane. The terminal was tight, but it worked.

    1. Southbay – True, but it was usually a small 737-500, though sometimes it was a -300. And it was pretty much always empty.

      1. A 737-300 is about 120 seats and a 737-800 is typically 160-170 seats. The airport should still fit the extra 40-50 people. I actually used to fly ORD-HVN on a 737 and flew it when it was full flight and don’t remember any issues with airport crowding.

  6. Kudos Cranky for predicting primary Florida airports, not the secondary ones I imagined. My friends at UST will have to keep waiting but maybe they’ll eventually catch a Breeze.

  7. I am curious about leisure flight ticket cost comparisons. Will Bradley Airport carriers compete more with lower fares now that Avelo is here? I just priced tickets for December school break to NHV to MCO (1 adult/2 children) +$147 tax = $994.00 for Monday departure, Friday return. This seems inaccessible to families in New Haven County.

  8. The last 3 months the American flights n and out of New Haven have been just shy of 80 % load factors.

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Cranky Flier