picture of avelo airlines 737 with boarding ramp in the lower left corner

Avelo Airlines Flight Review

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It’s not every day that I’m able to fly a new airline, especially domestically. Pronounced “Ah-VEHL-oh”, Avelo Airlines flies up and down the West and East coast. Avelo Air is an Ultra Low-Cost Carrier. so aside from the ticket, everything is a la carte. This month (April), I got to fly on Avelo Airlines from Burbank, CA to Pasco, WA. This is my review of Avelo Airlines.

Where Does Avelo Airlines Fly?

Avelo Airlines has two bases – one on the east coast and one on the west. The destinations they fly to don’t connect the two routes so you can’t fly them across the country (not necessarily a bad thing!). They use 737-800s on the West Coast, and the slightly shorter 737-700 on East Coast routes. Not every route has daily operations, in fact, most are only served three or four times a week.

Avelo’s West Coast Operations

Avelo Airlines flies up and down the West coast from Burbank and a few flights from Las Vegas. Destinations include Boise, Eureka/Arcata, Sonoma/Santa Rosa, Redding, Fort Collins (CO), Las Vegas, Bend/Redmond, Eugene, Medford/Rogue Valley, Ogden Utah,  Pasco/Tri-Cities, and Spokane.

Avelo’s East Coast Operations

New Haven, CT, on the East coast. On the East coast, they fly to popular destinations, mostly in Florida. Whereas on the West coast, the destinations are mostly smaller cities or secondary airports.

There is a big difference between the two sides of the country. Flights from Burbank are to places that are somewhat underserved as far as flights go. Whereas the flights from New Haven are much more leisure-focused to Florida. This dichotomy makes sense. Florida is such a big destination from New York and New England. There’s almost unlimited demand for flights to Florida. There isn’t that same level of demand on the West coast. The west coast doesn’t have a large population in one area (New York, for example) that mostly wants to go to one other area (Florida).

Cost of Flying on Avelo Airlines

In case you’re not familiar with how Ultra Low-Cost Carriers (ULCCs) operate, nearly everything is an ancillary cost. Everything, other than a ticket to get on the plane, has a cost. Notice that I said, “ticket to get on the plane”? If you want to pick your seat in advance, you’ll have to pay for it.

Price of Ticket

As with any airline, flight, route, etc., ticket prices fluctuate. I bought my ticket a little more than a month in advance. The price was $59 for a one-way ticket from Burbank (CA) to Pasco (WA). I didn’t see anything lower than that, but I’m sure it can get higher especially if you book close to your departure date.

Ancillary Fees, or “Add ons”

Avelo Airlines uses the term “add ons” for everything that they charge for. It’s really just ancillary revenue, but it’s their business model so it can be called (almost) whatever they like. For my particular flight, a checked bag was $35 and a carry-on was $40. If you pay those fees at the airport, it’s an extra $10. Leave a comment if you can guess why a carry on is more expensive than a checked bag.

Paying for a seat is rather peculiar. Looking at the seat map, Avelo almost charges different amounts for every seat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a wide range of costs for an assigned seat within the same row!

Seat map of Avelo Airlines 737-800

They don’t charge for printing your boarding pass at the airport like some other ULCCs (I’m looking at you, Spirit). Even though it costs the airline to print it out, you can’t exactly fly without one. So good on them for not charging.

When Computers Go on Strike…

As much as we would like to think that computers are bulletproof and run 100% of the time with no problems, realistically, that’s not the case. The day before I was supposed to fly on Avelo, I wasn’t able to check in at all. Unbeknownst to me, their computer system went down. No one was able to check in!

The Situation at Burbank Airport

Knowing that I wasn’t checked in, and that I was checking a bag, I got to Burbank earlier than I thought I needed. In case you didn’t know, Burbank is one of those airports that is small enough where you could easily show up 40 minutes before your flight if you’re not checking a bag.

I am glad I showed up even earlier than I thought! I think the last time I waited in a line that long was going through immigration/customs in Mexico City! The line didn’t move quickly, but I felt like it could have been quicker. Hard to say for sure.

Line of people with luggage and wearing backpacks waiting for Avelo Airline ticket counter at Burbank Airport
Long line of people waiting to check in to their Avelo Air flight

When most airlines’ computers go down, the entire operations come to a screeching halt. It’s like when a car’s transmission blows up (the car goes nowhere). Somewhat surprisingly, this isn’t the case with Avelo Airlines! Fear not – everyone in line made it on board and my flight left after a minor delay. You may be wondering how?

The first thing that comes to mind is that everyone’s boarding passes were printed on strips of paper. Nearly all of Avelo’s operations are considered “O & D” – origin and destination, which means passengers start at their origin and go directly to their destination with no layovers. This makes it possible for them to issue boarding passes like this. With other carriers, it isn’t possible to coordinate people and flights in the same manner.

What Happens to Add-Ons when Computers Go Down?

With boarding passes covered, what happens to luggage fees and seat assignments? That’s a completely different story! As I said, Avelo charges for basically everything except a boarding pass. Simply put, they weren’t able to charge anyone fees or properly assign them seats. Even the luggage tag they used was completely handwritten! Talk about a flashback to the 1980s!

Rectangular slip of paper with flight and boarding information.
Boarding pass on a slip of paper and a handwritten luggage claim tag

Also, since they couldn’t properly assign seats, it was open seating. Good thing I paid for a seat assignment and checked bag, right? I asked the gate agent about what I paid and they said I can call and get it refunded. I was skeptical… surely it can’t be that easy.

It was that easy, and quit calling me Shirley! I called and after explaining what happened a couple of times, I was told I’d have a refund within 7-10 days. I still haven’t gotten it, but I was on hold for 30 minutes and talked to someone for 5, so it isn’t burdensome.

On-Board Avelo Airlines

With nearly any low cost carrier, expectations aren’t high. You get what you pay for. Since it was open seating and I vaguely remembered the seat map, I grabbed 3D. The seat was a pretty standard slimline seat that didn’t recline. The legroom, however, was very comfortable. There were 2-3 more inches of legroom than the seat I bought (22D). It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but the seat pitch in other seats can be quite tight. I wouldn’t want to sit in that seat for more than 5 hours, but my flight was less than 2 and it was totally fine. I have no complaints about it at all.

The flight attendants were friendly but didn’t do anything above the bare minimum of customer service. I was surprised they handed out mini bottles of water. I overheard one flight attendant say there’s a rumor they’re getting WiFi. I didn’t hear if they said when that would happen, but it is very unsubstantiated. Don’t believe it for a second.

Final Thoughts

It would be hard to give Avelo Airlines my full recommendation in this review. I think my experience was substandard given their technology problems (which no airline is immune to), but it could have been worse. My main issue with them is that they don’t serve the top-tier cities in each market they fly to. Burbank isn’t near where I live and it was my first time flying from Burbank Airport. Did it meet my needs and safely get me to where I needed to go? They absolutely did.

They do have a good value proposition. My flight was early in the morning. Even after taking the train to Burbank, spending the night at a hotel near the airport, etc, it was still significantly cheaper than flying any other airline from my home airport (SNA) or even LAX. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly them, but if it’s convenient then go for it!

What Would I Have Done if My Flight Was Canceled?

If I were flying on any other carrier, my flight would have certainly been canceled due to the computer issue. I paid for this flight using my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which has trip cancellation and delay insurance. Trip cancellation doesn’t cover if the carrier cancels a flight, but trip delay probably would have covered me. I would have called to make sure if the cost of a different flight is covered, and if so would have flown a different carrier. If it wasn’t covered, I would have canceled my trip completely. All that said,  I should probably, at some point, get travel insurance through a reputable brand such as Allianz.

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