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Avelo launched its new low-cost, direct flight to Orlando last week - but for how long?
Research shows Avelo has abandoned other airports less than a year after they launched
I’m excited to announce that I have a new writer who will be contributing to The Wausonian. Devon Welsh was a professional, touring musician, but has decided to change careers and is interested in journalism. So I’ve taken him under my wing and am guiding him through the process.
I’d hoped one day to have him featured in these pages. I didn’t expect to share his first-ever story when I sent him to the Avelo unveiling at CWA. But he came up with a little scoop no one else got — he found out Avelo had launched at other airports and left some of them in less than a year. And the copy he turned in was extremely clean and accurate.
So you will be seeing more of Welsh in the coming months. Give him a warm Wausonian welcome.
Central Wisconsin Airport officials in July announced a new, low-cost airline was coming to the airport. According to news at the time, it would be offering direct flights to Orlando for unheard of prices.
Avelo Airlines on Thursday celebrated the launch of its first flight between Central Wisconsin Airport and Orlando International Airport. But its short longevity at other airports raises questions about how long they might last at CWA.
The launch is the culmination of a long pursuit by Central Wisconsin Airport of a low-cost carrier that would provide direct flights to destinations desired by the area population.
The Marathon County Board of Supervisors in March 2022 pledged up to $195,000 as a service development grant, according to the Wausau Pilot & Review. This pledge led to the Department of Transportation in August 2022 awarding a $900,000 grant to the Central Wisconsin Airport in order to provide the low-cost carrier with a minimum revenue guarantee and marketing.
Avelo Airlines in September ended their service after less than a year of operations in both Dayton, Ohio and Charlottesville, Va., according to reporting from the Dayton Daily News and NBC 29 respectively. That raises concerns about the long-term viability of this new service at Central Wisconsin Airport.
Victoria Stennes, Avelo’s Head of Customer Experience and People, said that maintaining flight service in a new market like central Wisconsin involves internal factors such as ‘load factor frequency’, the amount of available seats that have been filled by passengers, as well as external factors such as the price of fuel.
“As a young start-up airline we don’t have the luxury of necessarily developing markets over an extended long term, and sometimes markets take a while to mature,” Stennes said. “But we try to do due diligence on the front end, so [that] when we come in and we engage in these partnerships and engage with the community, we’re here with every intention of this being a successful route launch that we can expand over time.”
Central Wisconsin Airport Director Brian Grefe indicated that cell phone data was used in determining which flight destinations would be appropriate for central Wisconsin. This data indicated that Orlando, Las Vegas, Fort Myers and Phoenix were all popular travel destinations for area residents.
“What you can get from [cell phone data] right now is absolutely tremendous,” Grefe said. “It’s not necessarily folks that are just using CWA, it’s just if they’re ending up in Florida, however they get there, we have access to that data through third party providers.”
The Wausonian reached out to Avelo Communications Manager Courtney Goff at Avelo. Here’s what she had to say about the decision to leave Dayton and Charlottesville:
In an environment of rising fuel costs, we’re navigating the best way to fly our routes and utilize our planes while also ensuring there is enough demand. This was not the outcome we envisioned when Avelo took flight in Charlottesville and Dayton, unfortunately both cities had not been generating the demand we expected especially with the distance and fuel usage needed to continue the routes
Did Avelo make any commitments to stay for a particular duration? Goff addressed that as well:
While we have not made a specific duration commitment, CWA is off to a great start with strong bookings and continues to trend in the right direction. As we continue to see those in Central Wisconsin region using our flights and books trends remain strong, there is not an issue for concern. CWA is a great area where there is no competition to the Orlando area and a big demand, we are very pleased with it.
Grefe indicated that Avelo is the first low-cost carrier to offer flights at Central Wisconsin Airport.
One-way nonstop flights to Orlando start at $54 and are currently scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays, with additional flights added for the holiday season.
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