For most airlines the idea of being seen as “basic” is not appealing. Whether it is the association with the punitive basic economy offerings introduced over the past several years, or just the idea that de-commoditizing the industry might help with revenues, no one really wants to be basic. Upstart Avelo, however, does not seem to mind. Indeed, the company celebrates that as a compelling part of its passenger experience.
Like most airlines today, the Avelo offering is decidedly unbundled. Every seat on board comes with a fee to select it prior to check-in, for example. Even the middle seats in the last row. Carry-on or checked bags, priority boarding, and most everything else also comes with a fee.
But once on board everyone gets a nearly identical experience. Mostly because there isn’t an option to buy anything else.
Passengers are given a small bottle of water during each flight. But that’s the only catering on board. Where most other low cost carriers have chosen to sell snacks or drinks, Avelo is keen to keep things simple. And that means on on-board sales, at least not for now.
Speaking with PaxEx.Aero while en route on the carrier’s inaugural flight from the new Wilmington, DE base, CEO Andrew Levy was clear that he likes the very basic offering, and that he really wants to avoid the complexities of inflight retail offerings.
The onboard product is exceptionally basic. Are you comfortable with that play? Do you see anything changing?
For now, we’re very comfortable with it. It’s something I was actually excited to try. We have a very, very basic offering. And the pandemic allowed perhaps us to experiment with that in a way that wasn’t that unusual, because at the time we started, there was a lot of this, very little service on the airplanes.
But, you know, I think people like bringing their own [snacks and drinks]. There are definitely reports I’ve received from flight attendants of people wishing for a coffee or a beer. But for the most part, it’s really been very well accepted by our customers.
We’ve looked at the idea of incorporating some really small basic things, maybe like one or two snacks, a couple drinks for sale. And everyone looked at that but that’s probably going to be something we’ll focus more on in 2024. It is actually surprisingly complex logistics to cater an airplane. It doesn’t seem like it would be that big a deal, but it actually is a lot of work that takes a lot of time. You’ve got to buy the product, you got to receive it and inventory it. You’ve got to get it to the airplane, you got to get off the airplane, you have to have a point of sale device. And if we can avoid it for a while I think we’re better doing that.
I don’t think people really value it on shorter routes like ours. Clearly, we’ve seen that people don’t. It is not affecting the purchase decision.
Levy was also clear that the very basic approach works well because the average stage length is sufficiently short. With most flights clocking in at under two hours the lack of on board amenities are a much smaller consideration than getting a nonstop flight from their secondary markets. Even if it means leaving a bit of revenue on the table until the operation is stable and the company can take on the additional logistics challenges.
Beyond the lack of buy-on-board options, the flights are refreshingly decent for a low cost carrier.
Yes, Avelo operates under the LCC model. But it is taking used planes from airlines that did not choose overly dense seating configurations. That means most passengers will have a comfortable seat and decent enough legroom on board. It is far from luxe, but even back in row 31 there’s a little space for your knees.
One downside of taking the used planes is that some of the interiors are a bit the worse for wear. Levy acknowledged that problem, noting that the company should be able to clean the interiors up with a “bit of elbow grease” and get them looking cleaner on the surfaces. Given the ability of other airlines to make 30-year old planes look nearly new on the inside, it is clear the age or provenance of the aircraft shouldn’t define that part of the inflight experience.
With three Avelo flights now under my belt I’m comfortable saying it is a completely reasonable, if not entirely basic, on board experience. And if the carrier flew nonstop in markets useful to me I’d have no qualms about flying with them more.
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