Sonoma County airport gets new Southern California flights via startup Avelo Airlines

Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport will be among 11 destinations served by Avelo Airlines, a new commercial carrier with a low-fare business model focused on the western United States. The airline and the airport made the announcement today.

“We are the inaugural flight and destination, so that is very exciting from an airport operations standpoint,” said Airport Manager Jon Stout.

Avelo will become the fourth commercial air carrier servicing the Sonoma County facility, joining Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines, the latter which is expected to resume flights June 3 after pausing in November because of the pandemic.

Burbank-based Avelo Airlines will make its maiden roundtrip flight on April 28, with reservations available starting today.

“It’s been almost 15 years since a new carrier has entered the market so it’s not something that happens often,” Stout said.

Andrew Levy, founder, chairman and CEO of Avelo Airlines, has held previous leadership roles in the industry, including as cofounder and president of Allegiant Airlines and CFO of United Airlines — two commercial carriers already familiar to the Sonoma County airport.

That familiarity was a plus, but not the primary reason the Sonoma County airport was among the chosen destinations, according to Stout.

Avelo Airlines is focused on the leisure market and what’s known as the secondary market — regions that are in proximity to big airports. Sonoma County fit the bill on both fronts, as a popular Wine Country destination and near San Francisco International Airport.

Meanwhile, passenger volume for March at the Sonoma County airport is expected to be released Friday, Stout said. Although passenger numbers so far this year have been low, Stout said last month that he’s seeing signs of air traffic starting to increase, including more cars in the parking lot and more passengers coming off planes.

Stout said Thursday that the deal with Avelo Airlines had been in the works for a while, though with a nondisclosure agreement.

“They were secretive because of competition,” he noted. “They didn’t want other carriers to have too much of a time period to respond to what they were planning.”

A similar carrier, Breeze Airways, also is entering the marketplace, but initially flying within the East Coast market, Stout said.

Avelo is backed by $125 million in private equity, according to its press release, and will begin operations with three single-class 189-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft from its initial base at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

The airline’s initial nonstop routes also include Arcata/Eureka and Redding; three markets in Oregon (Bend, Eugene and Medford), along with Bozeman, Montana; Grand Junction, Colorado; Pasco, Washington; Ogden, Utah; and Phoenix, Arizona.

The company stated it plans to operate a fleet of at least six next-generation 737 aircraft by the end of the year.

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