Avelo Airlines made its maiden voyage to and from Southwest Florida International Airport on Thursday.
The fledgling airline, which made its debut in July with Burbank, California, as its first hub, just expanded to the East Coast with flights between New Haven and Florida.
One-way flights between RSW and Tweed New Haven Airport (HVN) cost $49.
They arrive from New Haven at 5:45 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays. They depart from RSW to New Haven at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays.
“We’ll be studying how many flights is the right number,” said Mark Kopczak, the head of network planning for Avelo Airlines.
Starting an airline from scratch and during the global COVID-19 pandemic posed some challenges for airline founder and CEO Andrew Levy. He had co-founded Allegiant Air and been the chief financial officer for United.
Levy drew Kopczak out of retirement from a 20-year tenure with Spirit Airlines to explore new routes for Avelo, which has its corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas, but for now does not fly out of there.
“We want to make sure we pick the right flights at the right times,” said Kopczak, who was in Fort Myers for Avelo’s first flight there. “And what an interesting time to start an airline, during the pandemic.”
Avelo also is flying from New Haven to Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. Future Florida destinations from New Haven include West Palm Beach and Sarasota.
“Our purpose is to inspire travel,” Kopczak said. “For us, it’s non-stop flights. We don’t have connections. We’re very focused on running a safe, on-time airline.
“If you look at Connecticut, there’s not a lot of airline service in that whole region. New Haven is smack dab in the middle of Connecticut.”
The New Haven hub means people living between New York and Boston have an alternative choice for low-fare flights, Kopczak said.
Avelo has about 250 employees and owns six airplanes. Three are 737-800s (189 seats) based in Burbank. Three are 737-700s (147 seats) based in New Haven.
The first flight into Fort Myers was full with 147 passengers, Kopczak said. The first northbound flight to New Haven had 100 passengers.
“That was great for our first northbound flight,” Kopczak said. “The New Haven people are really happy, because they don’t have to fly to New York anymore.”