Low-cost carrier revealed, soon to offer flights between Dubuque, Orlando

An ultra-low-cost airline will begin providing flights between Florida and Dubuque in January.

Avelo Airlines, of Houston, will offer direct flight service between Dubuque Regional Airport and Orlando International Airport on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting on Jan. 11. It will mark the return of commercial air service to Dubuque after the departure of American Airlines in September, which provided flights to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

The first flight on Wednesday, Jan. 11, will depart from Dubuque at 4 p.m. and arrive in Orlando by 7:45 p.m., while the flight from Orlando will depart at noon and arrive in Dubuque by 2 p.m.

Subsequent flights from Dubuque to Orlando will always depart at 5:50 p.m., while flights from Orlando to Dubuque will depart at 3:05 p.m.

Avelo Chief Financial Officer Hunter Keay talked with the Telegraph Herald in advance of a news conference Thursday.

Keay told the TH that the company will utilize Boeing 737 aircraft, with 149 to 189 seats per plane, to provide air service in Dubuque. While flights initially only will be provided to and from Orlando, Keay said strong demand could prompt the airline to expand to additional locations in Florida or elsewhere in the future.

“We are always on the hunt for opportunities to fly in markets that have been abandoned by legacy airlines,” Keay said. “We’ve seen the opportunity in Dubuque.”

As an ultra-low-cost carrier, Keay said Avelo is focused on providing quality flight service at an affordable cost in Dubuque.

Today through Thursday, Nov. 10, it will offer an introductory one-way fare to Orlando for $59. Every ticket will allow passengers to bring on one personal item for free. While costs will increase from there, Keay stressed that airfare likely will hover around $70 to $75 per ticket.

Courtney Goff, communications manager for Avelo Airlines, said no unexpected additional fees will be charged for purchasing airfare, such as telephone and technology charges.

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Dubuque Regional Airport Director Todd Dalsing said original negotiations with Avelo included providing flights to Fort Myers, Fla., but that location was dropped after Hurricane Ian devastated the city in late September.

Keay said the destruction to the area caused by the hurricane has made flights to Fort Myers financially unfeasible currently.

“The hurricane has made that a challenging region in the near term,” he said. “At this point, we think demand will be negatively impacted until further notice.”

Dalsing added that alternative locations in Florida are being considered for flight service from Dubuque, including Tampa and Sarasota.

Avelo Airlines began offering flights in the U.S. in April 2021. Goff said that when the company emerged in 2021, it was the first new mainline airline in the United States in 15 years. So far, the company has flown about 1.3 million passengers, and it flies to 34 destinations in the U.S.

Keay said Avelo has prioritized bringing air service to smaller communities where larger legacy airlines have ceased operations.

“We love the opportunity to bring low-cost service to underserved communities,” Keay said.

He added that the company is committed to developing air service demand in the Dubuque area.

“We’re going to be patient,” Keay said. “We’re making a commitment to the area.”

Goff said the company has a history of expanding its operations in communities in which it begins offering flight services. In November 2021, the airline began offering flights out of New Haven, Conn., starting with four destinations in Florida. Today, Goff said, Avelo Airlines offers flights between 14 different destinations and New Haven.

Dalsing said the arrival of Avelo marks a major step forward for the operations of the Dubuque airport and will ensure that the employees working at the airport continue to have jobs.

“Because of this, all of the jobs are retained in Dubuque,” Dalsing said. “This is really a great announcement for us and the community.”

Dalsing added that a 2021 study of air service demand surrounding Dubuque Regional Airport found that service to Orlando had more demand than any other city.

Mayor Brad Cavanagh said he and other local officials remained committed to bringing air service back to Dubuque since the American Airlines departure. In early October, both the Dubuque City Council and Dubuque County Board of Supervisors agreed to each contribute up to $500,000 as part of a two-year agreement to provide a minimum revenue guarantee to an airline, in this case Avelo.

Over that two-year period, Dalsing said, each flight Avelo conducts from the airport will be assigned an expected minimum revenue depending on a number of factors, such as total potential passengers and fuel costs. If the flight does not reach that minimum revenue amount, the funds contributed by the city and county will be used to make up that amount. Dalsing added that it remains possible that some funds will be left over after the agreement expires.

However, Cavanagh added that he sees Avelo’s arrival as just the first step in providing expanded air service to the community.

“The vision that I have is that we have a direct connection for flights that go east, a direct connection of flights that go west, and we have a connection to a great leisure service destination,” Cavanagh said. “We are checking one of those boxes with this, and that is a great first step.”