For regular readers, you’ll know that I don’t write reviews of hotels, airlines, restaurants, or things like that, except as incorporated into a larger story. So why this one? A couple reasons. First, Avelo Airlines generously sponsored my flights to and from Humboldt County on my recent trip, so I actually paid much more attention to the experience than I normally would. Secondly, and much more importantly, Avelo is a new airline and I have been asked by dozens of people how my experience was. So with those things in mind, here we go.
Avelo Airlines is basically exactly a year old, as of this writing. It was launched in April 2021 as a budget carrier operating primarily from two bases of operations. On the west coast, that center is Burbank. On the east coast, New Haven. (Edit: a few days after writing, Avelo announced a new base in Orlando.) The carrier flies old 737s, and as of now, has eight aircraft in its fleet, flying mostly to smaller underserved airports (like Arcata-Eureka, hence my working with them).
For purposes of this review, I am going to divide things into objective fact, and my personal opinions (positive or negative). I will try to keep the two completely separate, and not offer opinion on the facts.
Avelo, first and foremost, is a budget carrier. This means fares are comparatively low, but your ticket may not include all the things you’re looking for. Those can be added a la carte. So, your fare includes access to the space below the seat in front of you, but checking a bag is extra, and access to the overhead bins (for a full sized carry-on) is also extra. So if you are able to travel with only a backpack on a shorter trip, the fare you see is the fare you’ll pay, but if you need more stuff, that bottom line will be higher. Likewise, any advance seat assignment is also extra.
Food service is non-existent on Avelo, even pretzels. Beverage service is limited to small bottles of water.
The aircraft, as mentioned above, are old. (At least the two I flew on were, and yes, I am sure they were different aircraft – more on that later.) Therefore, there is no seatback entertainment, and no wifi. There is no in-flight magazine, although pretty much no airline is doing that these days.
Opinions – Bad
I flew on two different aircraft for this trip. I know they were different because the seats were totally different. On my southbound flight, the seats were basically normal airline seats. On the northbound, they were thin, hard as a rock, non-reclining, and the least comfortable airline seats I’ve ever sat in/on. So I guess you can say the “hard product,” that is the physical manifestation of the aircraft, is inconsistent. That’s a negative to me.
This being mere days after the ending of the federal mask mandate, none of the onboard crew were wearing masks, and only a single gate agent. As I am someone still concerned about Covid, and who continues to wear my N95 mask most places, that’s a negative in my book. I also wish there had been an announcement upon arrival that masks are required inside the terminal in Burbank, as our unmasked passengers continued unmasked.
Opinions – Good
The aircraft were both well cleaned, which I find impressive given how quickly planes are turned around (mine were on the ground less than 40 minutes). The livery is plain on the inside, which might be due to the lack of a consistent seat, or just to save money. However, plain doesn’t bother me. I don’t need monogrammed seats.
Crew were nice. There were lots of smiles, and even a cracked joke about the short landing and hard breaking coming into Burbank. Likewise the gate agents were friendly, informed, and seemed not to hate their lives.
Boarding was set up fairly well. Odd numbered groups line up on one side and even on the other, and the process alternates. I couldn’t tell what differentiated groups. Overhead space was plentiful since the costs kept some away from it, so even my group 5 of 6 meant there was plenty of space left for my rollerboard. That’s a big perk in my book.
After my northbound flight, I was sure my review would be negative. On even a 90 minute flight, those seats had my back hurting; the small child kicking my seat back didn’t help. The southbound flight changed that opinion somewhat. Overall, at the price point, Avelo is worth a consideration. The airline flies direct between places that would otherwise require a stop (from Burbank to Arcata would mean laying over in San Francisco on United), and that is huge. So even if the seats aren’t always the greatest, that’s worth something. Just bring a pillow to be safe.
Thank you to Avelo Airlines for sponsoring my flights on this recent trip. As you may be able to tell, my complimentary status did not affect my opinion at all.
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