New airline to offer Florida destination from Dayton airport

Avelo cites “commitment to make this city work,” but expansion will depend on demand, airline’s CFO says

A new low-cost airline that launched just a year and a half ago will start to offer service early next year from the Dayton International Airport to Orlando, Florida, officials announced Thursday.

Avelo Airlines, which last year became America’s first new mainline airline in nearly 15 years, will be the first new airline the airport has added since 2016, when Allegiant started service to two Florida markets.

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Avelo will be one of five commercial air carriers that fly out of the Dayton aviation facility. Dayton will be the first route Avelo has in Ohio.

If the new service is popular, Avelo will look at increasing the number of flights and could add service to other destinations, said Hunter Keay, the company’s chief financial officer.

“There’s no limit to how much we may grow in Dayton if demand is strong,” he said. “We will add more cities to the route map, we will add possibly more days of the week to Orlando, depending on what demand is.”

“We’re going in there with a commitment to make this city work,” he told this newspaper.

Dayton Deputy City Manager LaShea Lofton said the pandemic decimated air travel, but Avelo recognized and is taking advantage of a promising opportunity in Dayton as some legacy airlines struggle.

“Avelo and Dayton are a perfect match,” she said. “We both recognize that crisis is not a problem — it is an opportunity for great things to emerge.”

Avelo currently provides air service to 32 destinations across the U.S., but new routes from Dayton and Dubuque, Iowa, were announced Thursday.

The company’s very first flight took to the skies in April of 2021. Avelo now has four “bases” at airports in Wilmington, Delaware; New Haven, Connecticut; and Burbank, California; and Orlando.

Avelo has a fleet of 11 Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. It expects to add two more planes by the end of next week, and the company should have 16 in operation by the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Avelo’s new flight from Dayton to the Orlando International Airport will begin on Jan. 13 and will run twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, said Keay.

Allegiant also has a twice-weekly nonstop flight to Orlando from Dayton, but it goes through the Sanford International Airport.

Large commercial airlines have been abandoning airports like Dayton’s in favor of bigger hub cities due to factors like pilot shortages, fuel costs and other business priorities, Keay said.

For instance, Southwest Airlines ceased service at the Dayton airport more than five years ago.

However, this trend creates an opportunity for Avelo to “backfill” lost service with lower-fare flights, he said.

Avelo flies “big jets” and focuses on providing inexpensive fares, Keay said, and introductory one-way fares to Orlando will be $49.

After the introductory period ends, which should last at least a week, fares will not increase very significantly, Keay said.

Avelo “keeps things simple” with a straightforward fee structure, a uniform fleet of planes, reliable operations and nonstop service, he said.

Connection-free travel minimizes delays, cancellations and lost bags, the company said.

“If you get the basics right, it can lead to really positive things,” he said.

Credit: Getty Images for Avelo Air

Credit: Getty Images for Avelo Air

Dayton has seen a significant reduction in passenger traffic in recent years, even though the local population has held steady, which suggests there is unmet demand for service, Keay said.

“The plan is not to come in here and serve Orlando twice a week and move on to the next conquest,” he said. “We want to deepen our presence in Dayton, and we’ll do that if demand is there.”

Avelo’s mission is to “inspire travel,” which it strives to achieve by offering low-fare service to small, convenient airports, said Travis Christ, head of marketing for Avelo Airlines.

“When you look at our route map, you’ll see a lot of smaller places that typically have maybe been underserved,” he said.

Avelo wants and expects to grow air service in Dayton, he said.

Credit: Getty Images for Avelo Air

Credit: Getty Images for Avelo Air

The Dayton airport currently has about 30 to 35 flights each day, aviation officials said, and its airlines are United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Allegiant Air.

The airport has flights to about a dozen locations.

Air service from Dayton to Detroit, Minneapolis and Denver has been suspended due to COVID and pilot shortages, said Gil Turner, Dayton’s aviation director.

But he said he hopes service to these cities will be restored.

“I do believe we’ll get Denver back pretty soon — hopefully we’ll get it back early in the first quarter of next year,” he said.

Turner said he’d love to see the Dayton airport add new air service to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and elsewhere.

Avelo’s eastern routes primarily serve Florida markets, but that could change in the future, especially given that the company has service in a variety of western states, Turner said.

Avelo gives the Dayton airport a good chance to add new service to both business and leisure destinations, said Terry Slaybaugh, vice president of sites and infrastructure with JobsOhio, which has a Commercial Air Service Restoration Program that works to bring more routes and seats to Ohio’s commercial airports.

“I think this is the fourth airline we’ve brought to the state in the last year and a half,” Slaybaugh said at a press conference on Thursday.

Dayton travelers have said they want more airlines and more destinations at the airport, and Avelo is making that happen, said Chris Kershner, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m thrilled that Avelo is here — it’s a discount airline without discount service,” Kershner said.

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