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New flights to new places for Las Vegas with rapidly growing Avelo

If the business model for Avelo Airlines seems a little familiar — operating flights from small-town America to resort cities like Las Vegas — it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Avelo announced Thursday that it is expanding at Harry Reid International Airport in September with four new nonstop flights to destinations previously unserved from Las Vegas. It also will establish a crew base at the airport.

If that sounds a little like what Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air has done so successfully, consider that Houston-based Avelo was founded by its CEO, Andrew Levy, who once served as president of Allegiant and spent 14 years with the company.

In an interview with the Review-Journal, Levy said Avelo is ready to take its next step in expansion with new flights and establishing a crew base for pilots, flight attendants and technicians. Affirming that crew base is an indication that more growth is ahead for Avelo in Las Vegas.

“We’re really excited to be a part of what’s going on in Vegas,” Levy said. “We’re giving customers another connection to a place that people want to go to, and Vegas is one of those places. We’re excited to build on what we started in Vegas and add a lot more service.”

September expansion

The expansion of service begins Sept. 7 with nonstop round trips to Bend/Redmond, Oregon, twice a week on Thursdays and Sundays.

Then on Sept. 8, Avelo will add twice-weekly flights Mondays and Fridays to and from Brownsville, Texas, and twice-weekly flights Mondays and Fridays to and from Eureka/Arcata, California. On that same date, Avelo will double its operations to Sonoma/Santa Rosa, California, to Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.

On Sept. 13, the airline will add twice-weekly round trips Wednesdays and Saturdays from Las Vegas to Dubuque, Iowa.

At the same time, Avelo will expand its presence on the East Coast and in the Midwest starting this month, eventually flying 68 routes between 44 destinations.

Avelo will fly the routes with 149-passenger Boeing 737-700 twin-engine jets and 189-seat Boeing 737-800 jets. Routes will be introduced with some discounted $49 one-way fares.

With Southwest Airlines upgrading its fleet with Boeing 737 MAX 7 and MAX 8 jets, Avelo was able to acquire some of the airline’s 737-700s and 737-800s that are being replaced. Avelo also struck deals to acquire aircraft from Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, a Brazilian airline.

While Levy and Chief Operating Officer Greg Baden, another Allegiant alumnus, took a few ideas from the Allegiant playbook, Avelo isn’t a carbon copy of Allegiant.

“I think we’re doing a few things and there are some similarities to my old company, but there are some things we do that are a bit different in terms of the approach we take,” Levy said.

“The foundation is the same as what we built Allegiant on, which was to do something different, offer a choice to consumers instead of trying to do the same old thing others are doing, which naturally points us into airport pairs that don’t have service,” Levy said. “What we do exceptionally well is we deliver a great product to our customers with a great low fare, and terrific convenience in terms of the airports we fly into.”

Access to L.A.

An example of that is Avelo’s other West Coast base — one of six nationwide once Las Vegas is added — Hollywood Burbank Airport. The airline serves Los Angeles from the Burbank airport, an easier place from which to operate. It likewise uses Sonoma/Santa Rosa to access the San Francisco Bay Area, and Delaware Valley’s Wilmington Airport for Philadelphia.

Avelo has no plans to connect its West Coast operation to the East Coast or to fly a Burbank-Las Vegas route, which is well covered by Southwest.

When Avelo establishes its crew base in Las Vegas, it will start with one airplane, which translates into about 30-50 jobs. Levy expects more jets to be based in Las Vegas as the airline’s fleet grows.

Currently, Avelo’s ground operations are handled by a third party, but that could change as the airline expands.

In the short time Avelo has been in operation — it launched April 28, 2021, with its first Las Vegas flight Sept. 16, 2021 — the airline has established itself as one of the industry’s top on-time and completion rate performers.

“We’re No. 1 in completion factor,” Levy said. “We are really good at delivering a highly reliable product that’s very simple, easy to use, and on top of that, we have this amazing group of people that we’ve hired and trained and let them do their thing. We like to call it delivering our ‘soul of service,’ which is really just the way we interact with our customers. We’re cheap, convenient, reliable, friendly people. That’s a good combination that works really well.”

Avelo has flown 2.5 million customers on more than 20,000 flights in the airline’s first 26 months. And Levy said the airline will turn a profit this year.

“I don’t think we’re going to be the next Southwest Airlines in Las Vegas or the next Spirit, Frontier or Allegiant,” Levy said. “But you start with one route at a time with opportunities to do things nobody else is doing.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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