Delaware’s on-again, off-again relationship with commercial air travel is back on

Avelo Airlines is the latest to offer cheap flights to Florida from the Wilmington Airport. (Avelo photo)

Avelo Airlines is the latest to offer cheap flights to Florida from the Wilmington Airport. (Avelo photo)

Avelo Airlines arrival at the Wilmington Airport was met with fanfare from state leaders Thursday. The company’s flights to and from several Florida destinations ends Delaware’s dubious distinction as the only state in the nation without commercial passenger flights.

“Avelo will provide Delawareans and visitors a convenient way to travel,” said Gov. John Carney.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer joined Carney’s refrain. “Wilmington Airport has tremendous potential to be an economic driver in our County. We welcome Avelo to our community to provide reliable and fast service to our residents and look forward to further growth opportunities.”

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Avelo CEO Andrew Levy promised passengers a “fast and seamless experience” traveling to Florida from the Wilmington Airport. “We appreciate the warm reception and support Avelo is receiving,” Levy said. “We look forward to welcoming everyone aboard Avelo’s first ILG flight in February.”

But despite the warm words of welcome, Delaware flyers would be justified to question how long Avelo’s service will last, especially considering recent history.

Frontier Airlines ended flights from Delaware in May, little more than a year after it resumed flying from the airport just a few miles outside the Wilmington line.

Before that, First State passengers have been on a seesaw, with the airline starting and stopping flights multiple times over the past decade. Frontier started flying out of Wilmington in 2013, only to cut service to almost all destinations about a year later. By 2015, the low-cost carrier ended flights all together.

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Wilmington-New Castle Airport. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

There was great fanfare at the airport in January 2020, before COVID-19 arrived in Delaware, announcing the return of Frontier flights in May 2020. Those plans were put on hold amid the pandemic, but flights finally did begin in early 2021.

When Frontier left, the Delaware River and Bay Authority, which runs the airport, said getting commercial service back here would be a priority for the agency.

DRBA executive director Tom Cook took an optimistic tone on Avelo’s arrival in Delaware. “It’s a great day for Delaware and more importantly, for travelers who are looking for affordable, convenient commercial air service options,” Cook said.

Avelo makes its case as a perfect carrier for small airports like Wilmington’s ILG. The company specializes in flying “underserved routes to primarily underserved communities” across the country. The company claims at least one airport on every flight is a small hometown airport. The airline launched in April 2021 and says its flown 1.2 million customers on more than 10,000 flights.

Avelo plans to use Wilmington as its East Coast base. Plans for flights out of Wilmington include five destinations in Florida: Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Fort Myers, and West Palm Beach.

Separate from the back and forth with commercial flyers, ILG stays busy in its use as a corporate aviation hub and as home for the Delaware Air National Guard. President Biden also makes frequent use of the airport, flying to visit his home near Wilmington.

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