After 35 Years, Lakeland Gets Another Chance with Avelo

MCO - Orlando

Sometime in the spring of 1988, the last Delta Connection puddle jumper departed Lakeland, Florida and never looked back. Since then, there have been exactly zero scheduled commercial airline flights. That will be changing, likely in May or June, when Avelo rolls into town. This is big news, but it is not without risk to the airline, the airport, and the local government.

Lakeland sits between Orlando and Tampa just off the traffic-choked hell-road known as I-4, ranked third deadliest in the country. Tourists know I-4 well since it is the road you need to get to all the most important spots: Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Florida Polytechnic University, and of course, the Howard Johnson Lakeland. (Yes, if there’s a hotel brand you thought had died long ago, it probably exists somewhere near I-4.)

Of course, Walt Disney World is the biggest attraction around, and you don’t actually need to take I-4 to get there from Orlando’s main airport, MCO. It’s just about 20 minutes away. Let’s take a look at a map to make this easier to follow.

You would think that MCO would be able to serve all the traffic anyone would need in the region, but that’s not the case. There’s Allegiant’s main base of operations in Orlando up at Sanford, a good 45 minutes away from Disney World to the northeast . Allegiant has done well for itself up there, though it recently decided to go back into MCO again to try to get more of the traffic that it misses.

Tampa’s airport lies only a bit more than an hour and a quarter southwest of Disney World taking I-4… if you’re willing to drive at 2 in the morning. I-4 can be such a mess that long delays are the norm, especially on weekends. It’s not really viable as an alternate airport for Disney, but of course, it doesn’t need to be. It’s a major city with plenty of business and beaches to create more than enough demand on its own. If people fly into Tampa to reach Orlando for some reason, that’s just a perk for the airport.

With this backdrop, we can now look at Lakeland. Lakeland sits closer to Tampa than Orlando, but it’s only 45 minutes away from Disney World (again, with no traffic, so… it’ll be longer than that). Lakeland’s claim to fame is as the headquarters of Publix supermarket and the home of Detroit Tiger spring training, when happy, frozen people still hold out hope that the team won’t suck. It has just over 100,000 people, but the larger Polk County region has just shy of 800,000. This is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions in the Orlando and Tampa areas.

Lakeland does have an airport though, and it’s one that’s well known to the general aviation crowd. Like Oshkosh, it hosts a big fly-in event. SUN ‘n FUN is not as big as AirVenture in Oshkosh, but it is number two, and this year will be the 50th event. That’s held around spring break, and the place is absolutely booming for a blink of an eye. And then, it’s not.

Lakeland has had an awful record when it comes to commercial service. It’s not that it hasn’t worked. It’s that airlines haven’t even been willing to try. Since that last Delta Connection flight operated, I’ve found only one example of an airline actually operating anything notable. It was the public charter company –Direct Air — which took a swing starting in June 2011. It flew to Myrtle Beach, Niagara Falls, and Springfield (IL) that summer, shifting Myrtle Beach to Plattsburgh (NY) in winter. The company made it into March 2012 before failing completely. Nobody has touched Lakeland since.

This might seem rather surprising. After all, Florida had been so hot during the pandemic. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen airlines take a run at Daytona Beach, Melbourne, St Augustine, and Vero Beach. But Lakeland? Nope.

But here’s the thing. All of those airports sit on the beach, or right near one. There are people who go to these places, sometimes driving from nearby states because it’s easier. The airlines that went into these markets were hoping to bring people to town who didn’t want to bother flying to Jacksonville or Orlando and drive. Maybe some service would work, and some probably wouldn’t.

Apologies to the people of Lakeland, but there is no “there” there. Outside of March when the Tigers are in town for spring training, nobody wants to go there for vacation. They either want to see the mouse or they want to go to the beach. Flying into Lakeland doesn’t make it a quicker and easier trip vs driving from nearby states. It makes it longer. It’s an alternate airport, or at least it wants to be.

The problem with that, of course, is that it’s hard to be an alternate airport to Orlando and Tampa, both well-run airports that have no trouble attracting airlines. The benefit of Lakeland is a lot less than if you find a good alternate to a very high-priced and congested airport like Avelo did with New Haven to LaGuardia.

Avelo has done well in New Haven, but it hasn’t found that blockbuster second base. Apparently, Avelo thinks Lakeland will make that happen. At the end of last year, Avelo entered into an agreement with the airport and the county. This is what will be handed to Avelo:

  • just under $2 million will be put into the airport to expand the security checkpoint, add more holdroom seating, create an exit from aircraft to bypass the holdrooms, and improve rental car facilities
  • a maintenance facility will be built for Avelo
  • over $1 million a year will go to marketing and promotion

This will go into effect on May 1, and it’s a 15-year agreement with a 5-year option. This is a big bet by Avelo that it will work. I don’t know what the penalties are for leaving early, but I imagine Avelo would have to pay the city/county back if it did that (and didn’t go out of business).

For Avelo, this is not a sure thing by any stretch. Avelo has already tried to make a go of things at MCO itself, and a spokesperson confirmed that Lakeland will not replace the MCO operation but rather complement it. 

Avelo started flying to MCO from New Haven in November 2021 and by this time last year (February 2023), the airline was up to serving 11 cities. But it has had its share of ins and outs.

Avelo Current Orlando Route map generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Gold is year-round, blue is seasonal, purple is exited

Other than Avelo’s key east coast markets (and Brownsville, oddly enough), nothing is year-round at this point. Most of the shorter-haul east coast stuff didn’t work. Avelo seems to do best heading more midwest, but that’s probably because they are getting local money in those cities.

So maybe the idea is that Lakeland will give Avelo enough of a differentiator that it can serve some of these crowded markets and attract more traffic even during the brutal summer. We aren’t talking about huge frequencies here. Avelo only rarely goes big in a market, so 2-3x weekly is more likely. Maybe it can scrape together enough demand bleeding over from Orlando and Tampa to combine with local traffic and eke out a living. 

Of course, we really don’t know how this will work, because nobody has tried Lakeland for so long. Only actually putting airplanes in the market will prove whether this is a good opportunity or just a waste of time of money. It’s just an awfully long commitment to make for something that’s such a big question mark.

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57 comments on “After 35 Years, Lakeland Gets Another Chance with Avelo

  1. It’s not shown on the map, but it’s also worth pointing out that also flies from TPA to ILM, ILG, & HVN, at least per its route map.

    1. Avelo also files to Sarasota-Bradenton from HVN and ILM, and now has a good-sized Allegiant operation as well, so it’s a better alternative for beach traffic and parts of Tampa Bay than LAL ever could be.

      Avelo at LAL is going to have to live on traffic to/from Polk County and the Mouse.

    1. David – I believe they’ll be about $0 for the first couple years. MCO isn’t that bad, I think around $10 per enplanement. But yes it will be cheaper at Lakeland.

    2. You also need to mark “traffic hell” at “Malfunction Junction”, the west end of I-4. The eastern half of Hillsborough County and all of Polk County is essentially isolated from the two airports you think are so wonderful. There are also other attractions that are better reached from Lakeland, eg, Legoland, Busch Gardens, etc, several colleges and large employers… Avelo’s network doesn’t work great with this, but please compare thriving airports such as PWM which has about a quarter the population. Delta’s failure 35 years ago with half the population and a functioning I4 is irrelevant.

      1. Eastern Hillsborough County is a rapidly growing area with lots of master plan communities popping up. These areas are close to equidistant to Lakeland as they are Tampa. In reality, nothing in FL is close to anything and locals are used to driving far distances. There are not nearly enough highways in the Tampa region and people rely on local “highways” like US-19, Dale Mabry, 60 and US-41 with frequest stop lights to travel far distances. I say this as a former Pasco County and Hillsborough County resident

    1. I love LEGOLAND (and personally can’t stand Disney), but I wonder how many people are flying to Florida just for LEGOLAND… I’d guess it’s far more common that families spend a week in Orlando, with several days in Disney/Orlando and then add one day in LEGOLAND at the end.

  2. First of all, great analysis of the challenge of serving tertiary airports in Central and South Florida. MCO and TPA are behemoths and to the extent that any airport has cut into either, it’s Sanford.

    The only way Avelo, or any other carrier, makes inroads in Polk County and the nearby communities is if their flights are materially less expensive than what’s available at Orlando International. While there’s a lot of population in Polk County, Orlando’s fares are extremely attractive owing to the fact that it’s a large-scale leisure market. I’m about halfway between MCO and PBI and the fair differential between the two airports is so great that MCO is the preferred airport — not to mention better service.

    This one will last long enough for Avelo to discover its equipment should be better used somewhere else.

  3. I’d suggest seeing LAL as a Disney gateway is the wrong approach here. Let’s look at the numbers …

    The Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA is about 810K full-time residents, plus another 29K seasonal residents. The metro’s population has increased about 15% since 2018. The market netted 10K new migrants in the previous 12-months, and has netted 97K migratory residents over the previous four years. If you look at the reasons for inbound migration into Florida, they’re driven principally by two things (according to non-public survey that was shared with me) … tax benefits and the State’s politics (gross, btw).

    So what does that mean? It means you have the typical exodus of high income Yankees trying to protect their assets (18K New Yorkers have left and settled in the Lakeland MSA since Aug 2020) that are settling in an area that is (as those of us who’ve lived in Central FL know) becoming the center of an I-4 mega region that will make Orlampa a single market as Tampa Bay residents push further east to seek available housing (and lower flood insurance rates). Who holds a disproportionate amount of the discretionary income in this country for travel? Seniors – particularly seniors who have enough of it that they need to move to a no income tax state to protect it. I imagine there’s enough of them with ties to the northeast to make HVN work.

    I’m a firm believer that these large airport capital development projects are going to create a “every town has two malls” scenario, where ULCCs look to flee high CPE airports to the benefit of proximate low CPE facilities such as LAL. I think this is part of a larger trend we’ll see grow moving forward. Just look how far ULCC pax are willing to drive to save $10 on a fare.

    1. I came here to make exactly this point. The Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA has been one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country recently. The Census ACS estimates that its population grew 8.6% (+62,000 people) in just 2 years from 2020 to 2022. Most of those new residents have ties somewhere else, which likely translates to a lot of VFR demand in both directions. There is a lot of development still in progress, so Avelo may be able to ride this growth trend for some time.

      As David mentioned above, the Legoland in Winter Haven also has also developed a (much smaller) cluster of tourist amenities on the Lakeland side of the I-4 congestion. You could imagine Avelo going the Allegiant route and selling vacation packages for Legoland-area hotels, etc.

      I think VFR will be the main driver and the key to filling planes, though.

    2. If you look at the reasons for inbound migration into Florida, they’re driven principally by two things (according to non-public survey that was shared with me) … tax benefits and the State’s politics (gross, btw)

      Translation, wealthy republicans who refuse to pay taxes as they suck money out of the healthcare system as they age. That said, the jokes on them as the money they thought they were saving is now going to homeowners insurance whose cost has skyrocketed in the past few years.

      These companies (the ones that chose to remain) have now priced in the coming effects of climate change. This has cause premiums to double or even tripple. The knock on effect on this is that Florida is both the most moved to state as well as the most move from state in 2023. The number of those leaving will increase as the cost of living there increases faster than income growth.

      1. We left Florida in large part due to the insurance threat that was on the horizon at the time (2019). I’m in a Mid Atlantic state now where I pay a state income tax, but it’s a wash when you factor in my insurance savings – and I bought here when the housing market was comparatively much, much better.

        1. So you saw it coming, good for you. I think there are only six insurance companies left including Citizens witch is covering the majority of residential properties in the state & that wasn’t the intent of the program. The real problem is by law Citizens cant be insolvent & therefore premiums will keep skyrocketing as a result.

          This will have a downstream effect in how residents spend their money or even cause many to leave as you & my friend Suzanne did & she was in the insurance business no less.

          1. A now neighbor of mine previously ran a credible insurance company in South Florida before selling it and moving up here. I’ve talked with him many times about it, and basically the ruse with the non-citizen providers is this … a major storm happens and they go bankrupt due to a lack of funds to pay out claims. Citizens is the backstop to pay the remaining claims. The same owners of the now bankrupt firm re-organize and create a new company that does the same thing under a new name. Wash, rinse and repeat.

            1. Don’t doubt it, yet the big companies have stopped righting policies for Florida, California & a few other states with their coastal regions a while ago.

            2. Insurance companies don’t go bankrupt, they go insolvent and are taken over by the state to wind down or something similar.

              Insurance companies are usually tightly regulated, their rates have to be filed with the state and evaluated to ensure they’re solvent. Additionally, they usually have to be insured to themselves, usually by paying into a state fund. It’s kinda like the FDIC, just for insurance.

              This is of course unless Florida got rid of that too.

      2. you mean “planetary evolution”, not climate change, right? We only have about 100 years of moderately accurate weather information – and only 50 of *real* weather monitoring.

        And those “rich” republicans aren’t draining the healthcare system – they pay in and have private insurance. That was a requirement under President 44, right?

        Citizens Insurance is a sh*t show, but they are also the only company that will insure homes east of 95 south of Stuart, FL. All the other companies have pulled out for a reason, and anyone with a -R or -D behind their name hasn’t been able to stop that or come up with a solution.

        Fact is, Florida’s done a LOT of things right – politics included – where people cherish less government involvement and less taxes. Washington State taxed capital gains on stocks, Bezos stopped selling stocks – and now that he’s in Florida, voila. He just sold like $3 billion worth. Tax & spend liberal-ran states & communities just don’t get that…. tax the wealthy and they’ll just leave.

        Props to Avelo for trying out Lakeland.

        1. haolenate – We are delving far deeper into politics than we need here, but the science is quite clear that human emissions have an impact on the planet’s climate.

          1. True, however you know where I live, and we made national news with our “extreme” temps, and of course a few in the media blamed it on climate change – saying we’ve never had weather this cold before.

            Then suddenly an image showing temps in my region & Canada showed it was worse in 1947 appeared on Reddit & X. Kinda hard to take the news seriously or environmentalists when its pretty clear they are pushing a narrative.

            Learned that Embraer 175s and the Airbus (C-Series) 220s can’t operate below -40*F… never knew there was a hard set temp. I guess Delta had one sitting in Fairbanks for 2 days.

            Environmental issues considered, I still find it odd thousands of people are moving to Florida each month to live in a mangrove or swamp. And they keep building apartments & condos made of wood. There’s a reason the rest of the caribbean uses brick & concrete for everything, I guess we’ll never learn. Lakeland’s MSA is going to keep growing as theres less and less “affordable” housing in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Orange, and Seminole counties. I think XP’s target isn’t Orlando/Tampa bound folks, but Lakeland/Four Corners/Zephyrhills/Sebring etc…

            1. Weren’t you the same one pushing your anti-DEI narrative a few weeks ago?

              Please take your politics elsewhere. This is not the forum for your non-sense. The rest of us adults are here to talk about route maps and airfare.

        2. LOL – the headline from “less government involvement” Florida today is that they want to ban consumers from being able to exercise the right to decide to buy lab grown meat, btw.

          1. Interesting how that happens, isn’t it? It’s the “get the government out of my Medicare” crowd & they just don’t get it.

            to Cranky,

            I’m sorry, it’s become such that you really can’t separate Florida from it’s politics as that is how they currently exist.

  4. It’s worth noting that the areas north & south of Lakeland are mostly Florida scrubland, with cattle ranches, citrus orchards, farm fields, and wildlife preserves taking up most of the land… Not a ton of snowbirds in those areas (or other people to drive VFR traffic from points north) and not really much reason for people to visit those areas. One needs to head west to I-75 or east to US 27 before really encountering much population in the areas north/south of Lakeland.

    1. That’s true along I-4 (which happens to go through a bunch of public land protected from development), but isn’t true in other directions.

      Lakeland has fairly dense suburban development extending more than 10 miles north and south of downtown. If you head east, there is almost continuously dense suburban development through Winter Haven and extending into Haines City.

      Polk County had >787,000 people in 2022, and likely has >800,000 today. That’s a fairly substantial market to address.

    2. A transborder route from Toronto area (but not YYZ) to LAL is needed. There is a great many snowbirds in the area as well as many expats and TPA and MCO are not convenient…LAL would be perfect.

  5. The whole area from Fort Myers up through Orlando have lots of little airports dotted about. Some see commercial service & some are for general aviation only. The issue with Lakeland as noted it’s too close to Orlando & Tampa in aviation terms & too far for driving for most of the attractions.

    Did you know, Florida’s three largest employers are Disney, Publix & Walmart.

  6. There are definitely a *lot* of airports in this area of FL. MCO and SFB for Orlando, TPA and PIE for Tampa. Seems like Avelo wants to convince a third regional airport that they’re viable enough to get commercial air service (Ogden, anyone? On top of Provo and Salt Lake City). That’s worked in New Haven of course. TBD elsewhere, particularly given how saturated FL has been

  7. @CF LAL had service on Direct Air (D1) in 2012 and 2013. They operated about 1.5 daily departures serving PBG, SPI, MYR and IAG

  8. IMO, the biggest competitive threat to Avelo’s LAL plan is not only MCO & TPA themselves, but Brightline. Should their proposed Tampa extension come to fruition along with including a Lakeland stop, it’s gonna be hard for Avelo to compete with train frequencies along with making MCO and TPA more convenient to get to/from for someone who’d otherwise fly Avelo to/from LAL.

    1. Fair point, though XP can spend two years accepting the subsidies in the meantime and see how things play out.

      1. Kenneth – Except that it’s a 15 year deal. The penalties involved with walking away are really key here. Fifteen years is a LONG time!

        1. Very rare for these incentives to have serious penalties enforced after the fact. It’s a terrible look to be going after an airline for damages at the same time as you’re trying to attract new airlines, so the deals are structured in a way that doesn’t require this.

          1. Alex – But this is different. It’s not just an air service incentive.
            They are building a maintenance hangar for Avelo along with all the terminal improvements, so I could see penalties being stiffer on that side of things.

            1. Or, just declare bankruptcy and end the contract. It’s what uS airlines do!

    2. I don’t think Brightline will be a major factor. For passengers originating in the Lakeland area, the time required to drive to a Brightline stop, leave some cushion for traffic to be ready for the train, then ride the train to MCO will likely be greater than just driving to MCO, even when you factor in ~30 min of traffic. I tried this repeatedly when going from suburban NJ to EWR (which has Amtrak and NJ Transit service), and it made more sense to just drive to EWR directly. Taking the train saves on parking, but that’s offset by the cost of train tickets.

      Passengers traveling to the Lakeland area will almost certainly want a rental car, which would be much easier to pick up at MCO than at whatever rental car locations end up being near the Lakeland Brightline stop.

    3. @ Billy L

      As the brightline network grows & more stations are added, there will most certainly be an impact in short hall traffic as people ride it & begin to realize that the hassle of flying just isn’t worth it.

  9. Don’t discount LAL’s proximity to Dinosaur World, Water Ski Hall of Fame and the Fantasy of Flight with the hanging parachuter! And of course, LegoLand. /s

    But every central FL local knows the instantly recognizable T-rex that greets you on I-4 WB as you approach I-75 and Tampa

  10. In all the discussion of Central Florida attractions, I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Tupperware’s world headquarters and the adjacent Tupperware Museum!

    True, they’re in Kissimmee… but if anybody thinks people are going to fly into Lakeland to go to Disney, then how could they even think of bypassing the place that made lid-burping a national pastime?

  11. Sean,

    Don’t know what your source was on the largest private sector employers in FL. It may likely be accurate. But, just as a data point, the largest single employer in FL is the US military, with +/- 130K active duty, Reserve, and National Guard personnel. This is only DoD in uniform and does not include the several thousand USCG (active & Reserve) nor the NOAA Commissioned Corps nor the DoD and USCG civil service folks.

    For the record, 26 yrs ago, I was the Deputy Director of LAL, having spent several years before that at MCO and unable to advance at MCO due to most of that aviation authority’s promotions at the time being based on nepotism or cronyism. I was also still flying combat aircraft in the Reserve 7 to 10 days a month and later returned to active duty until retirement. I’m still in aerospace but not airport management. MCO remains an origination & destination airport, not a hub, despite the best efforts of GOAA to describe themselves otherwise. Can LAL make it as a full FAR 139 airport? Hard to say, although I tried to make a case for commuters at LAL in 1997 and 1998. But as for proximity to MCO and TPA, one can look south where MIA, FLL, and PBI are in close proximity to one another. Same for up north with IAD, DCA and BWI or JFK, LGA and EWR. The I-4 corridor may end up replicating that…and Allegiant will still fly into PIE, UK charters into SFB, and major carriers into DAB and MLB.

    Very respectfully,
    Jim Philpitt, A.A.E.

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Jim.

      The problem with comparing to DC or New York is that those airports are quite constrained. If Orlando and Tampa were full, Lakeland would be an easy choice to relieve that pressure. But they aren’t. As for South Florida, I just say follow the money and the traffic. There is big money filling those planes from PBI which is the most convenient airport for them. Fort Lauderdale is the most convenient airport outside of the PBI flights. Miami is good for Miami and the keys, but people up north have a good reason to avoid the drive. Lakeland doesn’t have that local catchment the way any of those airports do. Sure, it’s growing, but it’s not in the ballpark.

    2. Hi Jim,

      This was based on private employers & I unfortunately can’t recall the source, as individuals like yourself aren’t counted in such stats.

  12. I think people are looking at Florida (and Lakeland) wrong. With the growing population base, I think the target market Avelo is after are those who don’t want to touch I-4. Looking at Cranky’s map (I’d probably extend that I-4 rubbish all the way to Universal/Kirkman exit, btw) – I-4 is constantly under construction and I think I will be an old senior citizen the next time we can actually *drive* the speed limit on I-4.

    There’s a massive population base growing at the Four Corners – Clermont/Kissimmee/Winter Haven/Davenport area, which is west and south of Disney. It does take forever to get to MCO – so much that my friends who live off 27 find it faster and easier to get to TPA (sometimes). Its taken me anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to get to my friends house leaving MCO and going to Clermont.

    And also a lot of population growing south of there – even Sebring (south, US 27 corridor) is seeing spikes.

    I think Avelo will do fine in Lakeland – I think we’ll see a bit more local traffic originating in LAL than people flying TO LAL. I speak from experience with EAS airlines – if we don’t have car rentals there, we lose business. As far as I can tell, Enterprise just has a small location nearby that serves the airport, so for LAL to work for inbound, they need a lot more infrastructure in place (eg: work with Mears for shuttles to Lake Buena Vista, National/Alamo/National and Avis/Budget/Thrifty/Hertz to set up shop, etc.

    1. Rental car facilities are included in the city-funded improvements in the agreement with Avelo, so I’m sure they’ll get at least one major car rental company onsite.

  13. Seems like Avelo should be working with major employers in the area to see where they need to get/send people. Amazon and Publix employees alone could probably keep them in business if they coordinated.

  14. Opening day in Detroit, and spring training in Lakeland, isn’t about hope for the baseball team. It’s the celebration that winter is over, that spring is here, that warmer and glorious summer days are just around the corner.

    And yet, I doubt that there are enough potential customers in Lansing and Kalamazoo (Avelo’s markets in Michigan) who want to go to Tigers spring training to materially impact loads for any flights to Lakeland.

  15. last commercial flights were in 2012. Scheduled airline flights returned to the airport in June 2011, when Direct Air flying Boeing 737s began service to Myrtle Beach, SC; Niagara Falls, NY, and Springfield, IL. Service ended on March 13, 2012, when Direct Air unexpectedly announced an end to operations. Direct Air was then subject to Chapter 7 liquidation on April 12, 2012.

  16. Should not start an article with a false headline! Although it was maybe 10 years ago what about Direct Air? It scheduled flights out of Lakeland for about 9 months before the entire company went bankrupt. It wasn’t actually the lack of customers it was poor management

  17. Like the article says, most people won’t fly to Lakeland to go to Disney. Lakeland would make a great alternative for locals who don’t want to go to TPA or MCO, on someone like Delta or American offering short flights to Atlanta or Charlotte where you can connect on….. but that’s the only way it’ll work. Also remember, Avelo only has 16 planes, if Lakeland doesn’t perform from the start, they’ll get the axe regardless of whatever agreement they have.

  18. I’m trying to square something in my memory. I flew into Sun n Fun in April 1999… Most of the planes landed VFR, because they could pack them in closer than with IFR, but there were some commercial flights that did lane IFR…

    So I wonder if this was some freight stuff or maybe they brought some flights back just for Sun n’ Fun?

    1. Nick – Beats me. Nothing shows up as scheduled in Cirium data from back then, but it could easily have been charter stuff or frieght.

  19. A very direct analogy for Lakeland (LAL) is Wilmington DE (ILM) which is nestled between PHL (27 miles away) and BWI (77 miles). LAL is 39 miles from TPA and 61 miles from MCO. Each airport has struggled to maintain scheduled commercial service over the years and has (or will have) a fairly substantial Avelo operation.

    The Wilmington metro area (New Castle county DE, Cecil county MD and Salem county NJ) is 724,000. The Philly MSA (less the Wilmington area broken out above as it is part of the Philly MSA) totals 5.521 million, the Baltimore-Columbia-Annapolis MSA has 2.844 million.

    The Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA is 787,000. The Tampa-St Pete-Clearwater MSA is nearly 3.3 million while the Orlando MSA is 2.764 million.

    The catchment area for ILM includes the southern and western portion of the Philly MSA and the northeastern portion of the Baltimore MSA.

    The catchment area for LAL includes the southern and western portion of the Orlando MSA and the eastern portion of the Tampa MSA (particularly eastern Hillsborough county).

    Not sure why Avelo had to go quite so big at LAL but if ILM is any indication, I actually think they can do a bang up business just on VFR even if not a single passenger goes to pay homage to Mickey and his ilk. After all, nobody’s flying into ILM for touristy reasons.

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