Avelo Advances Small Market Strategy With Raleigh-Durham Base 

Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Avelo Air

US startup Avelo Airlines is advancing its strategy of building a presence at second-tier US airports over traditional hubs, revealing plans to open a base at Raleigh-Durham (RDU) in North Carolina in February 2023.

Avelo will launch six Florida routes from the airport during that month. According to FAA data, RDU was the 39th busiest airport in the US in 2021 in terms of passenger enplanements.

“The airline will initially position one Boeing 737NG at RDU and plans to add a second 737 in the first quarter of 2023,” Avelo said in a statement. “Over the next two years, Avelo plans to base as many as five to seven aircraft at RDU, which will fly hundreds of thousands of [passengers] annually.”

The base will be one of two the carrier plans to open that month, with Wilmington (ILG) in Delaware also joining Avelo’s group of bases. Others include Hollywood Burbank (BUR) in southern California, where it launched operations in April 2021; Tweed-New Haven (HVN) in southern Connecticut; and Orlando (MCO). A planned base at Fort Myers (RSW) is on hold in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Avelo’s bases are at second-tier US airports—a deliberate strategy—with the exception of Orlando, where it trains pilots and flight attendants and to which it connects smaller markets.

Avelo started serving RDU in May with flights to HVN. With the establishment of the base will come the launch of six new routes, all to Florida.

From Feb. 2, the airline will fly to MCO from RDU 4X-weekly. The following day it will start 2X-weekly service to Tampa (TPA), rising to a 4X-weekly frequency from Feb. 16.

On that date the airline will also launch two more Florida routes: 4X-weekly service to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and 3X-weekly flights to Fort Myers (RSW).

From Feb. 17, the airline will initiate 3X-weekly service from RDU to both Sarasota-Bradenton (SRQ) and West Palm Beach (PBI).

Triangle Traffic

RDU gives passengers access to the “Research Triangle,” where three of the US’ elite research institutions—Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—are located within 25 miles of each other, attracting biotech and other high-end industry.

Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason, whose airline has seen high demand for an RDU-Reykjavik (KEF) service launched in May, told Routes he believes a growing number of people globally are moving from major hub catchment areas to places like the Research Triangle in the aftermath of the pandemic and the increased ability to work remotely.

“Our six new nonstop Florida routes are just the beginning” of growth at RDU, Avelo CEO Andrew Levy said in a statement. “Establishing RDU as Avelo's fifth base will enable us to bring affordable and convenient nonstop access to even more destinations.”

Flights between North Carolina and Florida are rising generally, prompting the US Transportation Department to ask airlines to fly more over-water routes between the states to ease congestion. DOT forecasts a “significant volume increase in [flights to/from] Florida this winter.”

Explaining the strategy of putting resources at secondary airports, Levy told Routes earlier this year that a big part of the appeal of flying Avelo is “being able to avoid those really large hub airports.”

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.