Avelo’s Unique Opportunity at Raleigh-Durham


It’s a far cry from the early days when Avelo had just one base in Burbank. The airline now has five, but it’s the most recent, growing addition of Raleigh-Durham which stands out. This base is different than any of Avelo’s other bases, and it could become an interesting experiment… if Avelo is willing to add just a little complexity. (I don’t imagine the airline is, but it’s something to consider.)

What’s so different about Raleigh-Durham (RDU)? I’ll let the route maps answer that question for you. Here are the current maps for each of the airline’s five bases.

Don’t worry if you can’t read the city names, because those don’t matter. The difference between Raleigh-Durham and the rest is that RDU is the only one that has a route map that could actually turn into a hub structure with flights going in different directions.

Burbank, Orlando, and New Haven largely sit in the corners of the country, unable to create much in the way of connecting opportunities. (Ok, ok, maybe Brownsville could connect, but that’s a minor diversion.) And while Wilmington (DE) could become that powerhouse mid-Atlantic connecting point it has always dreamed… no it can’t. Demand going north is, uh, shall we say, sparse. (It’s unclear that demand going south is all that much better.)

In RDU, Avelo has a dynamic, good-sized city which has received some attention from nearly every one of the big airlines at some point or another, but none have really gone all-in. Avelo now sees that opportunity to step in and serve those smaller markets where others haven’t bothered, like Manchester and Rochester. Any ‘chester will do.

Looking at Q3 of 2022, the largest market from RDU was Boston with 744 passengers per day each way (PDEW). Manchester had only 26, but considering Avelo only flies it two days a week, that’s not that bad if people change behavior to fly the nonstop. Rochester (NY) has 42 a day which is even better (and surprising).

As decent as that may sound, now imagine routing some of those people on connections down to Florida. Avelo is already flying from RDU to six cities in Florida, and I imagine it couldn’t hurt to have a few people from Rochester and Manchester on those flights. But this is Avelo, and that would require a change in mindset.

Avelo schedules its out-and-back network to drive aircraft utilization. That means it doesn’t have to worry about connections getting in the way. For example, on Thursday and Sunday, one of the airplanes starts out at 7:30am from RDU going up to Manchester. Nothing can connect into that. On the return, however, it leaves at 10a and gets back at noon, creating an opportunity to connect to that 12:25pm flight to Fort Lauderdale or the 12:35pm to Orlando.

It’s hard to imagine Avelo even considering changing schedules to cater to connections, but as the airline grows and adds airplanes, it will have the ability to make more connections just occur naturally. That’s something the airline could consider as it thinks about how big to make RDU over time.

Of course, this does add operational complexity as well. You can bet that people flying from Manchester to Orlando are going to have checked bags, so you need infrastructure in RDU to be able to handle that inevitability. Again, it seems unlikely that Avelo would do this, at least not now when the opportunities are so limited.

One thing we do know, however, is that RDU appears to be working for the airline. It opened its base there with a single 737-700 on February 15. Just a month later it is adding a second airplane, this time a larger 737-800.

Serving secondary markets from medium-sized cities is something that a variety of airlines dabble in, including Frontier and even Allegiant. But while Frontier does allow connections, it is highly unlikely the airline is going to try to cater to that outside of its largest cities like Denver. Allegiant still doesn’t touch connections. That could create an opportunity for Avelo if it’s feeling sporty.

The one wildcard for me is how Southwest reacts to some of this flying. Southwest is the largest airline at RDU, and every city Avelo serves from RDU can be reached on Southwest, some requiring connections. It’s not that hard to connect two dots that are already in the system. That being said, I can’t imagine Avelo’s growth is something that would cause Southwest to alter course as of now. The markets just aren’t big enough for the daily kind of service that Southwest usually flies, but weekend-only flying is always a possibility.

It seems like there should be room for an airline like Avelo in this market. I’m glad to see the airline taking this step, and I do wonder where this leads in the end.

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34 comments on “Avelo’s Unique Opportunity at Raleigh-Durham

  1. Any Chester will do? OK then, how about Colchester, Port Chester & Eastchester. The latter two are in Westchester.

  2. It’s also worth noting that Southwest used to be huge in MHT, but backed off significantly, and now fares out of of MHT (at least for the routes that I check) are rarely competitive or less than fares out of BOS.

    I live close enough to MHT that it is one of the airports that I check fares out of when I’m looking for flights, and I book several leisure RTs a year to down the East Coast. I’m excited about Avelo. That would be a great option & alternative to DL nonstops or to connecting on AA through CLT, both of which can be pricey at times.

    If Avelo starts to allow for connections, perhaps they will be able to add a few other destinations in the Northeast & Southeast (that’s quite the big hole in terms of geography & population in GA/AL/TN, given that Mobile & Savannah are that the edges of their states).

  3. By what measure is WN the largest airline at RDU? DL and AA both appear to have significantly more departures, seats, and ASMs out of RDU than WN.

    1. Delta doesn’t have a clear monopoly on flights to and from RDU like they do in ATL or AA in Charlotte. Delta is #1 here for market share at 23.73%, AA is 21.78% and WN is 14.92% so it’s fairly spread out.

      The endless demand for leisure travel to Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale keep prices very competitive. Avelo looks to tap some of that leisure demand from the big boys plus doing what Breeze is doing by serving underserved cities like Rochester and Manchester.

  4. Surprised to see Avelo up to 5 bases, especially HVN with 15 and MCO with 14 destinations. From a purely anecdotal perspective, it seems like they are Breezing right along while Breeze is facing significant headwinds.

    For purely selfish reasons, still waiting for either of them to add UST (St Augustine, FL) to the map. I’m told the Frontier load factors were high but F9 decided to consolidate at JAX.

    1. I flew Breeze from RDU to Hartford last weekend roundtrip. I appreciated the nonstop option (the limited 2x week availability worked out), but I wasn’t too impressed with the overall product (ie the seating). For the Nicer option, I expected more than just a free checked bag, seat assignment and complementary cup of water. (A can of soda or alcohol would’ve been appreciated.)

      I look forward to trying out Avelo this summer. I prefer the big mainline 737 jets anyway.

  5. It’s pretty impressive how evenly the pie is split at RDU; it’s a focus city for DL and AA for mainline, close to that for WN, and has or will have nontrivial traffic from Avelo, Breeze, and Frontier. I want to say DL will occasionally connect traffic over RDU (similar to what AA does at AUS), as it’s not in a bad spot for that. It’s a solid place to connect north-south.

    Maybe Avelo could do out-and-back alternating N-S routings to allow for same-plane service on a route that’s not served direct otherwise, similar to what Breeze has done with BreezeThru. More operationally tricky, but an easy 40m connection through RDU should easily beat total travel time vs. a CLT or ATL itinerary, between longer connecting times and schedule padding for the larger airports.

  6. This story points out one of the principal flaws in the DOJ’s anti-trust arguments against the NEA and the JetBlue/Spirit merger – that the airline industry is set in stone. That’s simply not true. While the industry is mature, it’s certainly not static. As recent history has demonstrated, new well capitalized competitors like Avelo and Breeze can enter the marketplace and provide competition. The dire predictions that consolidation would automatically shut out new entrants is demonstrably false. It’s harder to start a new airline than it was immediately following deregulation (and that’s a net positive, IMHO), but it’s not impossible.

    1. Ghost, Well said & RDU proves that in spades.

      Speaking of RDU, let’s not forget Midway Airlines moved there after being in their namesake airport for decades to capture that mid-Atlantic traffic. And now the “Triangle” is more populated then ever with a wealthier demographic thanks to the education, medical & research jobs located there. So why not give it a shot & see how it shakes out.

    2. Good point. Perhaps the DOJ sees it a bit differently in this case due to the slot controlled nature of the NE?

  7. I’m trying to see how they rotate aircraft for MX between these bases, which are so isolated from each other in terms of hub-to-hub flights and common destinations served. There’s very few places to break out shells, meaning the same aircraft will end up flying the same routes and ending in the same MX bases almost daily.

  8. The growth of Avelo and Breeze shows to me that maybe the DOJ is going after the wrong people.

    There is clearly a market, and financing, for low cost discount carriers. People like Frontier and Allegiant have had great growth too.

    But SOMEONE has to understand that putting all our eggs in the ULCC basket is not a great plan. Oh, sure it will give good and cheaper service to leisure destinations, and also for large markets like ATL-IAH, but these companies will never be sufficient for larger travel needs.

    If you live in Des Moines and have to get to Pittsburgh for a funereal, or someone in Billings needs to get to St Louis for a business meeting, ULCCs are not your answer. Nor will they ever be.

    We need strong, well funded, and competitive full service airlines too. The powers that be, again, need to realize that decisions for a stable and healthy air travel industry cannot just be based on fares.

    1. Frankly, they should never be based on fares. The DOJ shouldn’t pay any attention to business models, because at the end of the day, each airline is a for-profit entity. The narrative that ULCCs are doing some kind of charity does not have any merit.

  9. The terminal that Avelo is in at RDU (Terminal 1) is shared with Southwest, so on a facilities basis anyway, it is equipped for connecting bags, though I don’t know if WN just does it all manually, or if the conveyor system specifically supports it. (Until recently, WN was the only tenant in that terminal, and that’s been the case since it was renovated about a decade ago.)

    One of the reasons they built the other terminal (Terminal 2) to begin with was because the existing terminal on that site was built as part of AA’s flirtation with a mini-hub, and it was built more for connecting passengers vs. local traffic. There are virtually no connecting passengers in Terminal 2 today.

    As a side-note, if terminal changes are required, unlike big cities, *our* airport projects complete on-time, on-budget, and without hammering the ever living *bleep!* out of CPE.

    1. Perhaps your people should contact the Port Authority of NY/NJ, the state of New York, JetBlue and whoever the hell else is necessary to figure out why a 10 gate terminal is going to cost $4.2 billion!

        1. Perhaps, once again, the demise of the mafia, I mean organized crime, has been grossly overstated.

        2. Nor are the extremely well-paying jobs to the union members to build the thing.

          I knew former trades union people who came out of retirement when the new Tappan Zee bridge (yes, I know that’s not a PANYNJ project, but still) was being built. The insane money being offered for such paltry effort was simply far, far too good for them to ignore.

  10. ORD has entered the chat.

    Even our people mover renovation was a disaster. Although, T5 modernization went better than expected.

    1. Agreed, projects here in Chicago usually go sideways. Surprised the People Mover is now operating 24/7. Can hardly wait (sarcasm) until the Satellite Terminal construction begins on south end of T1.

  11. Rochester guy here. There’s pharma traffic to the Research Triangle and a couple of homegrown businesses have expanded in the RDU area. Add in a little bit of VFR and students going to Duke/UNC Chapel Hill and maybe there’s something there. Hopefully, the route stays and they grow their presence.

    1. Avelo’s presence is definitely growing at RDU. Whether it gains traction in Rochester and expands there is another thing.

      Some of the markets Avelo serves is like one regional airport to Orlando twice a week, like Dayton, Mobile and Dubuque.

      1. It’ll be interesting to see if they do more with DAY. Both Dayton and Akron-Canton had a thriving Airtran presence before WN pulled out.

        However the math might be different now because much of that was driven by people fleeing the high fares at CVG and CLE because they were fortress hub airports.

        1. Didn’t AirTran do mostly 3-4X weekly flights out of Dayton and Akron? They expanded daily service to popular destinations like Orlando and Tampa due to demand.

  12. I’m beginning to wonder if they are trying to emulate a hybrid Ryanair. I mean if you look at Ryanair and how they do things it seems similar to me. Alot of out and back flying with “bases” everywhere. I mean New Haven is the prime example of a Ryanair location its near New York, with a small airport feel and due to proximity can pull people from the headache of the “larger airports.” Whereas I feel that Burbank is the opposite and honestly a very smart move starting there. Small airport, that’s hard to get into, that was available that is central to everything Los Angeles. However, I do think Avelo needs to look at Santa Rosa as a base of some sort, I mean it’s practically pulling anyone in the North Bay Area to their airport. Just look at the numbers for that airport it’s crazy.

  13. Avelo seems to be catching on not just in RDU here in NC but Wilmington International Airport as well. While ILM doesn’t have a base like RDU does, Avelo started off last summer in ILM with service to New Haven, Orlando and Baltimore. They quickly added Fort Lauderdale two months later and downgraded the BWI route to seasonal. Now they’re increasing the frequency of their ILM-MCO route to 4x week (it was originally 2x week) and added service to Tampa and West Palm Beach too.

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