Avelo Tries to Thread the Needle with Binghamton Service

Avelo

Avelo continues its torrid pace of growth as of late with its newest city… Binghamton? There’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of Binghamton, but then again, did you know New Haven? There appears to be some method to the madness here, though the opportunity here is far smaller than in New Haven.

Let’s start from the beginning. What’s a Binghamton? It’s actually a city — but a small one — with less than 50,000 people. If you group in the metro area, there are around 250,000 people total. The city lies in south central New York, about 10 miles north of Pennsylvania and not far west of where the state border stops following the Delaware River and turns into a straight line heading west.

Binghamton is probably best known as being near Endicott, where IBM was founded and based for years. IBM pulled up stakes, however, and the old sprawling campus was sold in 2021 to a real estate company. Binghamton is also known for being a college town with what’s now generally called Binghamton University (SUNY – Binghamton). It has nearly 18,000 students who would definitely like to spend spring break in Florida.

The problem for the residents of this town is that there is almost no service. As of today, the only service at the airport is a single daily CRJ to Detroit on Delta. Nearby Ithaca and Elmira have also seen their fortunes shrink. Elmira doubles up Binghamton with a whopping 2x daily to Detroit, but it also has some Florida flying courtesy of Allegiant. Ithaca has that same single daily Detroit flight as Binghamton, but it also has 2x daily to Newark on United. American is pulling out of the airport entirely this week.

In general, this is an area that has seen its fortunes decline over time, so why is Avelo going in? Well, let’s take a look at the map.

Map via Cirium

This map shows all the routes from New York and Pennsylvania to Florida that operated in March of this year, a peak time. There are unsurprisingly a ton of routes blanketing the region, but there are some notable holes. The problem is, those holes in service generally line up with places where people don’t live. My guess here is that Avelo thinks it can cast a wide net from Binghamton and hope to stimulate enough traffic to fill those planes.

The Avelo plan is to operate 2x weekly (Weds and Sat) between Binghamton and both Fort Myers and Orlando. The flight times leave something to be desired just by the nature of these airplanes being Florida-based. It’s an early morning from Fort Myers with a 9am departure that turns back from Binghamton at 12:30pm. Then it’s a late departure from Orlando at 5:30pm that turns into a very late 8:55pm departure from Binghamton. Service starts in November on the larger 189-seat 737-800 fleet.

The idea here seems to be figuring out how to avoid Allegiant and other airlines while still finding a population center that has some demand. With Binghamton’s metro area at 250,000 people, you can add Ithaca’s 100,000 people living an hour northwest and Elmira’s 90,000 an hour west. On top of that, there’s the mighty Scranton area which surprisingly has no flights to Florida. There are a half million people who live there, and that’s an hour south.

The problem, of course, is that this service is only 2x weekly, so people who don’t want to fly exactly on those days are more likely to drive from Scranton to Allentown or Ithaca and Elmira to Syracuse where there are more plentiful options without much more of a drive.

That means the play has to be two-fold. First and foremost, Avelo have to appeal to the local Binghamton market and hope there’s enough demand there to create a solid base. Then it becomes a scramble to attract people from the surrounding areas with lower fares than they can get elsewhere, making it worth lining dates up with what Avelo offers and then making the drive.

It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but unlike a place like New Haven which is just surrounded with population, this is a very limited opportunity… if there is an opportunity at all. Avelo does find itself with an increasing number of airplanes heading toward Florida, so you can’t blame the airline for trying to find new markets. The thing is, it’s a crowded place and Avelo’s only hope is to avoid the markets where others are flying.

We might see a lot more of these kinds of things as airplanes continue to get delivered, but I do wonder just how many opportunities of this vein remain.

33 comments on “Avelo Tries to Thread the Needle with Binghamton Service

  1. They should call these the Dunder Mifflin routes.

    Although, even before The Office, I knew about Binghampton because as a kid in the 90s I went to the wrong gate at PIT to catch a flight to Birmingham. USAir had an MD-80 waiting there to fly the route though!

    1. There is no “p”’in Binghamton.

      Also could it have been a DC-9? I remember US Air flying DC-9s, F-100s, and regional jets to BGM, but never anything as large as a MD-80.

  2. Curious how this is going to work out as Binghampton outside of the university is just one of many rustbelt cities losing population do to corporate & industrial job losses.

    In the case of IBM, there HQ moved to Armonk, a few miles northwest of HPN.

    And speaking of “The Office,” “Wegman’s.”

  3. Curious how this is going to work out as Binghampton outside of the university is just one of many rustbelt cities losing population do to corporate & industrial job losses.

    In the case of IBM, there HQ moved to Armonk, a few miles northwest of HPN FYI.

    And speaking of “The Office,” “Wegman’s.”

    1. BINGHAMTON. – no “P”. It is good news that someone is attempting to recognize that just because Binghamton is not a city of millions, there is a need and desire for local flights. This is a step in the right direction, but it would great to see affordable direct flights to and from cities that promote business, not just cater to disrespectful short term foreign students to go on spring break.
      Contrary to what others want to say or think, Binghamton University is not what is important in this area, nor does it supply support to anything for the local economy. The focus should be on the WORKING professionals and businesses; including the dozen+ U.S. Defense Contractors within a 50 mile radius that provide essential products that give everyone the freedom they all take for granted and abuse. Research the local businesses and offer other affordable flights to NYC, DC, Philly, etc.. the cities that are needed for our local professionals.
      There used to be direct flights to DC, Philly and other large cities for professional travelers to support the local businesses. When you take away direct flights that give those businesses the ability to travel easily, with ever escalating taxes for those that live here to support a college, chain restaurants, stores and foreigners that contribute nothing, it forces more good people out of a once thriving area to make it nothing more then a dirty college town.
      What the WORKING people of this area need are flights in and out of BGM to cities and areas that are important to BUSINESSES rather then catering to students for spring break.

      1. There is a lot here. However if there was enough demand to NYC and DC I’m sure the airlines would serve it. Sadly BGM doesn’t seem to have that demand. There are many airports the size of BGM that are losing service all together.

        Also, regarding Binghamton University, state support for most public colleges is at an all time low. Yes tuition has gone up, but in many cases the inflation adjusted cost per credit hour has stayed about the same. Tuition has to make up that difference. It’s not like the 70s, 80s, or even the early 90s where states provided support to make public college cheap.

        As far as all those foreign students? They’re bringing a lot of money into Binghamton. All of that money coming from overseas is as good as, if not better than an export.

        Sent from my computer that moonlights as a phone.

  4. I’m not sure about RSW, but having lived in Binghamton for a long time now, I really do think the MCO route will do well (possibly even better if the flight times were better). There is a lot of local excitement on the announcement and with service directly to the main Airport (and not Sanford) I bet some of the Allegiant traffic that goes to Elmira may make its way to Binghamton if the prices are comparable.

    And Binghamton is also the site where Dick’s Sporting Goods was founded. Store #1 still exists near downtown Binghamton. They moved their headquarters to Pittsburgh in the early 2000s though and cited air service as a key reason (not the only one, but a key one) for moving.

  5. I’m surprised to hear there’s no service from Scranton to FL. There’s a lot of unserved corporate traffic on this route for a printer manufacturer headquartered in Tallahassee that has a large sales office in Scranton. Seems like a missed opportunity, thought I believe the CEO prefers to travel by private jet with her dogs.

  6. The only way to find out if a specific route is going to work is to give it a shot.

    Signed,

    Captain Obvious

  7. How about Avelo launching service to Florida from both Kalamazoo and Lansing in Michigan? Picking two airports 78 miles apart in Michigan seems to either be a way to cannibalize your own customer base or a grand strategy to encircle Allegiant and Southwest at Grand Rapids.

    1. Don’t forget the rather large Spirit base at DTW, either.

      To be fair, it’s not uncommon for those in Lansing (and even Grand Rapids, to a lesser extent) to drive to DTW for flights, especially as DTW is closer to the edge of the urban sprawl that most big city airports are (traffic around Ann Arbor and Ypsi can still be a little rough, but it’s not like one has to go through the bulk of Detroit-area traffic to get to DTW from most parts of western/central Michigan). The reality is that if the price is right, people in Michigan will drive a ways to the airport, especially for longer/bigger trips, or for trips where the parents and kids are going to spend some family time with the mouse or the beach.

      On the surface, having a bigger operation at LAN (or perhaps trying Kazoo and Saginaw, if one wanted to bracket Michigan and didn’t want to compete at Flint, though there aren’t a ton of people who live much north of Saginaw/Bay City) might have been an interesting alternative, but perhaps Avelo is hoping to compete on convenience.

      Ignoring competition, I’d argue that GRR (which is on the SE side of the Grand Rapids metro area) and DTW would probably be within reasonable driving range of most VFR travelers originating in Michigan, especially as both are fairly close to some upscale areas (Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids).

      On another note, I’d be curious to see how viable some sub-daily seasonal flights to Northern Michigan might be, especially with smaller planes… TVC is probably the largest airport north of LAN/GRR, and there’s a lot of vacation home money in that area, but there’s a reason that places like Pellston (population 883) in other parts of Northern Michigan see a few flights a day to DTW.

      1. Lansing has been in a tricky situation for some time being between Grand Rapids and Flint which have larger operations, I do think there is a market for Orlando and Fort Myers with 2 weekly flights each. Lansing has had seasonal flights to Cancun and Punta Cana for around 13 years now so there is a demand for warm weather flights, but also draw people from Grand Rapids and Flint area that do not have those flights. The Orlando flights from Lansing will land at Orlando International instead of Sanford International where the flights from Grand Rapids and Flint land via Allegiant, being closer to Disney etc. could be a selling point to fly from Lansing.

  8. Avelo started flights from Ft. Collins/Loveland airport here to Las Vegas and Burbank, then shut them down. The times I used them (SOOOO convenient compared to Denver International) the flights were full, but they shut them all down with little warning. Would guess the same is going to happen to many of these new routes.

  9. This move seems to indicate how badly Avelo is really struggling in BUR. They are losing so much money in BUR that they’re moving 2 -800s to the east coast (likely with seat caps), and -700s the west coast to reduce CASM. Time to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.

    1. I personally felt that the 800’s were too big for many of the Burbank routes they started. Either from a runway size distance to capacity being too large for a market. However, I will state a reason why this route may work. As we have noticed Avelo likes those small markets. Example- Arcata/Eureka. How can a community that has about 150k to 200k in a geographic area support 3 to 4 weekly flights to Burbank with 189 seats. It’s because the numbers don’t lie, studies showed that in this particular market the demand for direct So Cal service was roughly 50k per year.
      So i think Avelo is pulling a similar strategy take a small area that has known demand for this kind of service for the right price and the people will come.

      I do have the opinion about Burbank. The 800’s were too big for that market and the number of viable markets has eclipsed. However another issue at hand is the SEVERE flight curfew and I think it really limits their service options. I still wished that they would have made an effort to create Vegas as a base as well and use Vegas as a way to “store” planes overnight that could then be flown in to Burbank either directly on a daily basis or indirectly thru a different city. I just have the opinion that Avelos focus has shifted from the West to the East. The markets out of Burbank are the solid markets that do well and unless more planes are available this market has become maxed.

      1. Last report I read (probably 2 months ago) showed none of their BUR routes were profitable, which is why they’ve so quickly exited many markets. Also, BUR doesn’t have a “severe” curfew–it’s actually a voluntary curfew (read: voluntold). SoCal is just way too congested and competitive and none of the established carriers will allow them to take a foothold in any markets.

      2. I like your knowledge and presentation Mark. There’s always wise guys on these type of forums that blurt out something that doesn’t sound quite right. An expert in his own eyes preceded you. Are you and the other wise guy you find on here is someone that will make a big point out of correcting somebody in today’s instance it was the person talking about flying a US air super 80 from PIT. The list of other aircraft it would have been I’m sure it was accurate it would only make sense. But I could sit here all day and correct people who say things on here or on the car forums that I really didn’t participate in. I just think that’s almost like being a bully and wasting your time correcting some minor Thing like the type of an aircraft that flew years ago.
        Well I digress and I like most of the posts on here it was just fun to point out to my pet peeves one of which happened to you

  10. Rochester, NY guy here, so I follow these developments in my neck of the woods with interest. In addition to the USAir service Sam mentioned, in the 80s Brockway Air had a small hub in Binghamton and Empire Airlines ran daily non-stops to Syracuse, JFK, and LaGuardia.

    I think Avelo can probably stimulate some demand and I can’t imagine that anyone else is clamoring to fly over the top of them on these routes (one carrier makes money/with two, both lose money). I hope Avelo is able to make a go of this and bring some sustained service to a small city in upstate New York.

    One last bit of trivia – Link Flight Simulators (now absorbed into CAE) was founded and headquartered in BGM. They basically created the flight simulator industry there.

  11. A side issue on all of this, but it has to be a factor. I just tried to make a reservation on a ULCC, and their website was awful! Now the mainlines are not perfect, by any manner of means, but they are better than the ULCC’s. There are so many add-ons it’s quite a maze to work through.
    I would think that if a carrier – any carrier – comes up with a slick easy to use website they will gain more traffic.

    1. The ULCC sends you through that maze, not only to get you to spend more money, but also to make it very clear that not much is included with your ticket, I think this was their way of being more transparent about their pricing system

  12. CF, you of course have to write an article about my childhood airport on a day that my schedule is packed with things to do! I used to live behind Binghamton University, although in those days it was always referred to as SUNY-Binghamton, or SUNY-B.

    As others have mentioned, BGM used to have lots of service. In the 80s and 90s, US Air was the big operator at the airport, bringing in small mainline jets in addition to regional planes. (Usually DC-9s or an F100) They served many of their hubs, I recall them serving PIT, PHL, BWI at least. They probably served a few more. Also BGM used to have service from several of the majors’ regional carriers. Northwest and Continental are in my memory as having served BGM, and I just looked up that United also served BGM in the early 2000s.

    I also remember right after the US Air/Piedmont merger they would each bring in a small narrowbody late in the evening, and they’d be side by side on the ramp, often with the caps in to cover the rear engines. This was back before BGM had jetbridges, which weren’t added until the mid to late 1990s. Before that all boarding was at the ramp, and you’d have to walk up stairs to the airplane. I remember once we were flying out in quite the snowstorm, and we gave our tickets to the gate agent, and they pointed us to the plane… Which we couldn’t see across the ramp due to the whiteout conditions.

    (And I had to split my comment into two, because of the length limit.. so the next part will be in a reply…)

    1. Finally, the one important aviation connection about BGM, is that an early flight simulator, the Link Trainer, was invented and manufactured in Binghamton. During the 80s and early 90s, the airport was named Edwin A. Link Field-Broome County Airport. As I recall, when it was renamed to Binghamton Regional Airport, they kept the name of the airfield as Edwin A. Link Airfield, but had the marketing name as Binghamton. (It later got renamed to Greater Binghamton Airport.)

      Finally, during the 80s, this airport often was difficult to land at due to weather. The area itself is reasonably hilly, so BGM is built on the top of a leveled off hill. (There are slopes at the end of the runways.). Especially in the evening, this resulted in low clouds tanking visibility at the airport and there were quite a few times we’d circle around BGM waiting to see if it cleared. Sometimes we’d manage to get into BGM, but often we’d be diverted to Elmira (which might be a bad memory on my part, since Ithaca is closer?) US Air would have a motorcoach waiting for us at Elmira, and they’d transfer our checked bags directly to the motor coach, (It was fun seeing the bag carts out on the arrivals lane.), then they’d drive us back to BGM. That was some good irrops.

      Finally, BGM often would get put together with milk runs out of PIT. I remember there often was a PIT->ELM->BGM, PIT->ITH->BGM, and PIT->BGM flights leaving all at about the same time. Sometimes people would be booked on one of the flights with the stop, but because of the lax way it was handled they’d make a mistake or sneak onto the direct flight. We once had tickets for the direct flight, but when we got off the bus to our plane, there were four of us, but only one open seat on that plane. Oddly one of the flights with a stop had three open seats. My mom, instead of asking for them to check everyone’s tickets and fix the problem, just sent my older brother to fly alone on the direct flight while we took the connecting flight.

      Finally, I’m aware that I’ve used finally to start the last four paragraphs of this comment, but I’m just enjoying sharing stories, and I remember a new one to tell after I finish typing the other one.. So eh.. its a comment and I’m not editing it.

      Finally, just for shits and giggles in April or May 2020, I looked up the schedule to go between SEA and BGM, as I recall it was something crazy like AS: SEA-LAX, UA: LAX->IAH, DL: IAH->DTW->BGM. It was a crazy triple connection with three different airlines involved. (I’m pretty sure LAX and DTW are correct, I’m not sure about IAH..)

    2. This is great, Nick. So I went back into T100 data to see who operated what back to 1990 since that goes back further than the schedules database I have. It was quite the party. Here’s some of what I found…

      ABE – US DH1 from Oct 2002 to Dec 2002 ATL – DL CRJ/ERJ from June 2006 to Sep 2007 BUF – US DH1 from Jan 2003 to May 2003 BWI – US mix of 73S/733/F100/F28/DC9 up until Apr 1992 CVG – DL CRJ from Aug 2003 to Jun 2006 DTW – NW SF3/DH1 from Aug 1997 to Dec 2006, CRJ started Mar 2003 and continues today on DL ELM – NW SF3/DH1 from Aug 1997 to May 2001 EWR – UA DH2/DH3 from Jun 2014 to Nov 2016 HPN – WestAir (UA?) J31 from Sep 1990 to Nov 1990 IAD – UA J31/EM2 to Dec 1991, UA J41 from Oct 2002 to Jun 2004, SF3 from Jun 2004 to Jun 2012, UA CRJ briefly from Sep 2004 to Dec 2005, UA DH2 from Jul 2012 to Jun 2014 ITH – US DH1 from Jan 2003 to May 2003 JFK – DL CRJ/ERJ/DH8 from May 2007 to Sep 2007 PHL – US DC9/F100 from Aug 1996 to Apr 1997, US DH1/DH3 from Oct 2002 to Feb 2017, US CRJ from May 2004 to Oct 2012, US D328 from Feb 2004 to Jul 2004, US ERJ from Apr 2004 to Feb 2005 PIT – US D93/F28/F100/732/733 until Jul 2001, and yes M80 did fly occasionally in Feb/Mar 1994 and from Mar 1996 to Aug 1996, US ERJ/CRJ from Jul 2001 to Nov 2004, US DH1/SF3 from Oct 2002 to Sep 2004 and Nov 2005 to

      1. Thank you for that CF!

        I’m curious if you could share a link for where you searched for that? My brief looking around for T100 data only seems to be month by month, and only goes back to 2005 or so.

        Also, it looks like your comment got cut off mid message, as it doesn’t contain PIT, which would’ve been a major data point in this data as 1990 to early 2000s US Air(ways) pumped a lot of traffic through PIT.

  13. Seems like the 3 small airports all cannibalize each other but the politics of different cities and counties keep them all open to the detriment of the area as a whole.

    If Avelo wants to get really cute, they could try some of the airports upstate on another old USAir milk run, Massena – Ogdensburg – Watertown. When I had to go to Massena once, I flew nonstop into YOW instead of making the 3 stop flight from PIT.

  14. WestJet made a fortune going into Cdn markets with cachement areas 1/2 the size of Binghamton with “several flights weekly” scheds in their first decade of operations from 1996.

    WestJet never had the luxury of operating flights from, by US standards, tiny markets to destinations that had both a natural community of interest / VFR component AND being a natural draw as warm winter weather destination AND a college town.

    Avelo will do just fine in Binghamton.

  15. It is always good to see ULCC’s pay attention to smaller cities which have lost service. BGM should work well.

    On another note, I’m hoping Avelo notices DAY, which needs an ULCC to stimulate traffic. It could even serve as a Midwestern HVN!

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