Friday, April 12, 2024

ILM adds low-cost carrier, more nonstop routes

Avelo Airlines to offer travel to Orlando, New Haven and Baltimore

Avelo communications manager Courtney Goff announces Thursday the airline’s three new nonstop flights out of ILM. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — At a time when people are itching to travel — following two years of pandemic-induced restrictions — yet may be cash strapped by record-high inflation rates, Wilmington International Airport is offering more affordable options. And from a budding carrier.

Airport officials announced Thursday ILM will offer three new non-stop routes to New Haven, Orlando and Baltimore/D.C. starting July 1 with low-cost carrier Avelo. The airline launched exactly one year ago in Los Angeles and now serves 27 destinations.

“Low fares have arrived,” ILM airport director Jeff Bourke exclaimed to an audience of local officials and media at a press conference in ILM’s baggage check area Thursday.

An inaugural flight will take off June 30 from ILM to Connecticut’s Tweed-New Haven Airport. One-way trips will be available three days a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays — starting at $39.

“It’s the gateway to New England and an hour train ride to New York City,” Avelo communications manager Courtney Goff told the crowd. “And you don’t have to deal with LaGuardia, Newark and all that mayhem.”

Avelo — known for servicing smaller, secondary airports — launched its East Coast operation in November with Connecticut as the home base.

Passengers will be able to fly one way from ILM to Orlando and Baltimore on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets to Orlando will start at $49 and passengers flying to Baltimore can purchase seats starting at $29. 

The route to Baltimore/Washington International Airport will only be seasonal and operate until Labor Day. Avelo likely will offer other destinations in the offseason, Goff said. She alluded to another Florida stop or perhaps somewhere in the Midwest.

Goff explained Avelo’s business model comprises an “a la carte” way of traveling to keep prices low. The starting costs only include a one-way seat on one of Avelo’s Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. There is a $40 (online) to $50 (at the gate) fee for a carry-on bag, and it’s an extra $35 to $45 for the first checked bag.

“It lets the customer decide how much they’re going to spend,” Goff added. “If they’re going to take all the baggage, costs will go up a little bit.”

Avelo customers are never charged cancellation or change fees, and Goff expects the competition to impress upon other airlines as well.

“Flights are expensive on the legacy carriers,” she said. “I know this as a consumer and being in the industry. If we can come in and offer these flights to other cities not offered by other airlines, not only is that going to provide more options for ILM, but it will cause these guys to lower their prices a little bit.”

With the addition of three new routes, Avelo makes up 15% of ILM’s total passengers, airport authority chair Donna Girardot said.

She added that each nonstop flight that operates year-round at ILM generates an economic impact of about $35 million and creates 90 jobs.

To assist with this growth, the airport authority collaborated with the county’s Tourism Development Authority. The TDA voted earlier this month to spend $125,000 in destination marketing per new route. This builds on the airport’s incentive program to bring more flights to Wilmington. The incentive is funded in part by the 6% room occupancy tax on hotel rooms.

“This is just one small piece of that partnership going on that’s enabled us to be attractive to Avelo and other airlines,” Girardot said. 

Tickets are available now for Avelo flights out of ILM.

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