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I paid $19 to fly America's newest airline and had an amazing experience for dirt cheap. Here's what to know about flying Avelo.

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5/13/2021 (Thomas Pallini)
a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines. Thomas Pallini/Insider
  • Avelo Airlines, America's newest ultra-low-cost carrier, offers flights to leisure destinations.
  • It serves smaller airports near big cities that offer easier access but fewer amenities.
  • There are extra fees for checked bags and seat assignments, but not much more.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Avelo Airlines has slowly been introducing itself to the American traveling public as the carrier inaugurates its first 11 routes across the West Coast and Southwest.

And with the airline preparing for an expansion to the East Coast by year-end, more Americans will soon become acquainted with Avelo.

The carrier's ultra-low-cost business model puts it on par with Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines, and Frontier Airlines more so than Southwest Airlines or JetBlue Airways. But the airline, headed by Allegiant Air cofounder Andrew Levy, is taking a very different approach.

"Avelo's purpose is to inspire travel, and today we begin that process of making it easy, and convenient, and affordable with everyday low fares for customers to be able to choose us," Levy said ahead of the airline's launch.

Read more: Spirit Airlines' low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

I flew on Avelo's very first flight from Burbank to Santa Rosa in California and paid only $19 for the one-way fare. Naturally, I was expecting a similar experience to Spirit or Frontier, but I was wrong. What I found instead was a new breed of ultra-low-cost carrier with an incredibly unique offering.

Here's what you need to know when booking a ticket on Avelo.

The airline won't be found at larger airports

a sign on the side of a building: Avelo isn't at larger airports. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Avelo isn't at larger airports. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Convenience is at the heart of Avelo's strategy, and that includes using smaller airports like Hollywood Burbank Airport in California, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona, and Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport in Connecticut. These airports are usually easier to get to, have cheaper parking rates, and have fewer delays because there are fewer flights.

"We're going to offer people a terrific deal and hopefully a really easy experience, very convenient, and a nice experience in terms of dealing with great people," Levy told Insider.

Those airports offer a more bare-bones experience compared with hubs like Los Angeles International or John F. Kennedy International. That can be good or bad, depending on traveler preferences.

All three of the aforementioned airports feature single-story terminal buildings with basic amenities. Passengers board and deplane from aircraft outdoors using ramps from the tarmac.

But smaller airports are often more convenient to access and move through.

Checking a bag is cheaper than carrying one on

Checking a bag is cheaper is cheaper than carrying on luggage. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Checking a bag is cheaper is cheaper than carrying on luggage. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Baggage fees are a top moneymaker for airlines, especially ultra-low-cost carriers like Avelo. And while the airline charges for anything larger than a personal item, the fees are surprisingly low.

The fee for the first checked bag, for example, is only $10, while a carry-on bag will incur a standard rate of $35.

Levy said that lowering prices on checked bags would encourage more flyers use the service and free up space in the cabin. The result should be faster boarding and deplaning of the aircraft.

There are also fewer chances for bags to be lost since Avelo offers only direct flights with no connections.

Don't expect to pay too many fees

a group of people standing in front of a store: The airline doesn't have too many fees. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider The airline doesn't have too many fees. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Avelo is taking a different approach from its ultra-low-cost competitors by shunning most fees, including those to change a flight reservation. Most full-service US carriers have eliminated change fees, but they live on with the country's ultra-low-cost carriers - except Avelo.

Video: Here’s When to Buy Airline Tickets to Save Some Money on Your Flight (Real Simple)


Customers will not have to pay a fee to change a flight. They'll have to pay only the fare difference.

"As far as change fees are concerned, I think that's one of the biggest pain points in the airline industry," Levy said. "It's been that way for years. Airlines for years have used that as a money grab, and it has no relationship to what it truly costs to manage a change."

Another fee that Avelo is rejecting is the call-center fee. Customers that call to make a new reservation or a change won't be penalized for doing so.

"I want you to be treated kindly, and I want us to be able to make a difference and differentiate ourselves by providing a great experience engaging with customers on the phone," Levy said.

To pay for a seat or not to pay for a seat

It costs extra to choose a seat. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider It costs extra to choose a seat. Thomas Pallini/Insider

I never pay extra for seat assignments when I fly on ultra-low-cost carriers, and I've almost always been assigned an aisle or window seat. Case in point: I didn't pay for a seat on my Avelo flight and was assigned 14F, a window seat toward the front of the plane.

But the difference on Avelo is that aisle and window seats start at $5, so the investment is minimal.

Flyers can take a risk by not selecting a seat and may be assigned a good seat. But the option for a $5 window or aisle seat is a good way for flyers to avoid a middle seat without breaking the bank.

The cheapest seats are $4, but those are middle seats in the back of the plane. Those are already the worst seats on the plane, and flyers are better off spending the extra dollar or taking a risk by not paying for a seat.

Snacks and drinks are free

Snacks and drinks are complimentary. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Snacks and drinks are complimentary. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Avelo doesn't offer a full in-flight snack and drink service because of the pandemic, but the airline does distribute what it calls "convenience packages." Inside the sealed package is a water bottle, a package of shortbread cookies, and a Purell wipe.

It's not much, but Avelo's flights are typically less than two hours in duration, and outside food can be brought on the plane if it clears TSA screening.

Not all seats are the same, but they do recline

All seats recline. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider All seats recline. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Seats on board Avelo's Boeing 737s vary based on legroom, as is the case on all ultra-low-cost carriers. The cheapest seats offer 29 inches of legroom, while more expensive seats have between 31 and 38 inches.

The price for each seat depends on how much legroom the section it's in offers. The first row of the cabin offers nearly unlimited legroom, and the next comparable seats are the exit rows.

Seats also recline, which is rare for an ultra-low-cost carrier that offers minimal legroom in some sections. Another unique perk is that seats come with a proper tray table, unlike Spirit and Frontier, with ample room to hold drinks and food.

There's no first-class cabin.

There's no TSA PreCheck yet

a person standing in front of a building: A TSA agent. Joe Raedle/Getty Images © Joe Raedle/Getty Images A TSA agent. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Avelo is not on the Transportation Security Administration's list of participating airlines for the PreCheck program, meaning all passengers will have to endure traditional security checks. The good news is that Avelo primarily serves smaller airports where lines for security checkpoints are often shorter.

But even then, travelers will have to take off their shoes and remove laptops from their bags.

Avelo is coming soon to the East Coast

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: Avelo is coming to the East Coast. Thomas Pallini/Insider © Thomas Pallini/Insider Avelo is coming to the East Coast. Thomas Pallini/Insider

Avelo just announced expansion plans for the East Coast that will include a base in New Haven, Connecticut, at Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport. The first routes have not been announced, but flights across the East Coast are planned.

The move into New Haven requires a $100 million modernization plan, of which $1.2 million is being funded by Avelo, to extend the airport's runway and enhance its terminal building. The first flights will depart by year-end.

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