A new low-cost airline is planning to offer commercial service at the New Castle Airport.
Avelo Airlines, which launched in April 2021 and serves about 30 destinations across the U.S., has a “comprehensive business arrangement” with the operator of the airport, the Delaware River and Bay Authority. The agreement, approved by DRBA’s board in July, includes permits for airline terminal and airfield use and an incentive agreement intended to boost the number of departures from the airport.
Avelo did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A DRBA spokesperson declined to comment beyond saying negotiations with Avelo representatives are ongoing.
Avelo is aiming to begin service before the end of the year, according to the agreement. The agreement does not reveal which destinations Avelo is planning flights to.
The New Castle Airport has been without commercial flights since June when Frontier Airlines pulled out of Delaware. The budget airline tried offering flights from Delaware twice, leaving the first time in 2015 before announcing its return near the start of the pandemic. It’s one of several airlines to have short stays at the New Castle Airport over the past three decades.
When Frontier left, DRBA officials said the authority would continue to pursue commercial operations. They argued the airport made sense for commercial use, which could involve passenger air service or cargo, because of its proximity to major roads, the density of the surrounding area and the level of disposable income nearby.
“The story really about air service in Delaware is about finding the sweet spot,” Stephen Williams, DRBA’s deputy director and director of airports, said in June. “Finding the right time and finding the right airlines with the right strategy because there’s nothing wrong with the airport.”
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Corporate and private aviation and flight training have long made up the majority of the airport’s activity. The Delaware Army National Guard and Air National Guard also operate facilities at the airport and it is the home airport of President Joe Biden.
Avelo is based in Houston, Texas, and bills itself as a convenient and affordable option. It mostly flies out of smaller airports — its bases include Los Angeles’ Hollywood Burbank Airport, Tweed-New Haven Airport in southern Connecticut, Fort Myers’ Southwest Florida International Airport and Orlando International Airport.
DRBA’s agreement with Avelo is for five years. Avelo has the option to extend the agreement for an additional five years. Financial terms of the deal were not included in a resolution posted on DRBA’s website.
In September, the DRBA board approved a lease agreement with Avelo for 3,900 square feet of hangar and office space adjacent to the commercial terminal. Avelo will pay $23,400 annually for the space. They can renew the lease for an additional year up to nine times.
The return of commercial service to the New Castle Airport has a financial incentive. The Federal Aviation Administration gives airports a federal allotment based on how many riders it has. In November 2021, DRBA announced the New Castle Airport surpassed 10,000 boardings for the year, which vaulted it to a higher status and increased its allotment from $150,000 to at least $1 million.
Frontier initially offered flights three days a week and then reduced service to two days a week. All flights were to Orlando, Florida.
DRBA spent about $2 million to renovate its commercial terminal to meet Transportation Security Administration standards before Frontier’s return.