Avelo notes: Passenger traffic stats and more parking as motel and long-vacant restaurant are razed

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The Wilmington Airport (ILG) had hinted on social media that more parking is on the way.

On Thursday, we learned that next week, demolition will begin on the former Comfort Inn Skyways and the long-vacant Damon’s Ribs buildings, both of which are a short walk from the terminal. The Delaware River and Bay Authority forked over $4 million to buy out the lease for the motel site.

The demolition work will add more close-in parking at the airport, which saw its existing lots running at capacity over the holidays. That included the remote lot at the former Air Transport Command restaurant site. The DRBA runs a shuttle during peak periods.

In addition, upgrades to the airport terminal are on the way, according to the recently approved capital budget for the DRBA. Avelo’s presence means more federal money and upgrades, although the timeline for getting funds can be lengthy.

A glimpse into passenger traffic

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Also, we are beginning to get passenger traffic info that may have contributed to Avelo Airlines’ decision to suspend, if not drop, service to some destinations from Wilmington

One report seemed to indicate that traffic from ILG to Raleigh-Durham was on the weak side. Raleigh-Durham was something of an experiment for Avelo, as the company sought to determine whether its business model worked at a mid-sized airport with multiple competitors.

News of Avelo not resuming routes like Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro, SC, and Savannah this spring led to pushback from those who flew the routes and liked the convenience and reliability of the airline.

Continued service under the low-fare model requires full planes. Small carriers like 16-jet Avelo don’t have the luxury of waiting a few years for traffic to build.

Avelo competitors, Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier, are also quick to pull the plug on routes that don’t draw passengers willing to pay a low-base fare with extra charges for seat assignments and baggage.

Avelo is also entering a critical period at ILG where winter fares will often be higher than the deep discounts we saw when making its debut here nearly a year ago. Will customers be willing to pay more for the convenience of the Delaware airport?

It should be noted that Avelo does hold flash sales that lower those fares with the savings allow passengers more money for paying for seat assignments and checked bags.

It also leads to the question of whether Delaware should invest some tourism dollars in promoting destinations Avelo serves, given the economic impact of a carrier basing nearly 100 employees at ILG. My vote would be yes.

This month, we learned that Avelo hopes to have as many as five additional jets in its fleet later this year.

Routes for the expanded fleet remain unclear. As previously reported, Avelo is betting on Lakeland, FL, a Wilmington-like destination between Tampa and Orlando. We also know that there are only so many options for filling up Boeing 737-800 jets that seat more than 180 passengers from routes that run out of smaller airports like ILG.

Avelo is banking on passengers from the Delaware Valley taking its flights.

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