Travel notes: Frontier takes on American; Avelo’s on-time performance

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Frontier Airlines continues to lay down a direct challenge to short-haul American Airlines flights in Philadelphia.

Frontier added Buffalo and Norfolk to its Philadelphia route map after announcing nonstops to American cash cow destinations like Charlotte and Pittsburgh. Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul, destinations served by both American and Delta, were also added to the schedule.

With these two additions, Frontier will serve 42 destinations from Philadelphia, making it far and away the second largest airline after American Airlines.

American has responded to previous challenges by moving away from smaller regional jets and sometimes adding flights.

“We’re thrilled to add additional service from Philadelphia, which is rapidly becoming one of our largest operational bases,” said Josh Flyr, vice president of network and operations design, Frontier Airlines. “Adding service from PHL to Buffalo and Norfolk further supports our focus on increasing service to underserved and overpriced markets.”

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Frontier is hedging its bets by flying to the two cities three days a week. It is also offering an Upfront Plus seating feature that offers extra legroom and guarantees an empty middle seat in the front of its newer Airbus jet. That may attract more business and more affluent leisure travelers. The short-haul flights may also improve Frontier’s low customer-satisfaction rate.

Avelo offers Burbank-Vegas flight, finishes first with fewest cancelations

Avelo Airlines will begin nonstop service from Hollywood Burbank Airport to Las Vegas. The new route – Avelo’s 14th destination from Burbank will offer Los Angeles-area travelers an option for a weekend at Sin City.

Avelo will operate the new route on Fridays and Sundays beginning May 3.

The announcement comes after Avelo moved the Las Vegas base to  Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in California’s wine country.

Burbank, Sonoma, and Wilmington fit Avelo’s operating strategy of flying out of underused airports near major cities. The Sonoma airport is a fairly easy drive from some cities in the San Francisco Bay area.

With the Vegas service, Avelo figures it can carve out a niche, even though Southwest and Spirit offer flights to Sin City.

There are no signs that Avelo will offer service from Wilmington or New Haven to Las Vegas.

Unlike rival Breeze, Avelo is sticking with a strategy of offering two-hour nonstop flights.

Also, Philadelphia International Airport offers nonstops from Spirit and American, with Frontier offering one-stop service. Thanks to the three-way battle for passengers, fares remain on the low side to Vegas.

Avelo’s route strategy also allows it to offer charter flights, sometimes for high-profile teams.

The airline has flown the high-flying University of Iowa women’s basketball team to March Madness destinations. Avelo also flew the North Carolina State University men’s team to the Final Four destination in Phoenix.

Finally, Avelo ranked first in the fewest cancellations and second in on-time performance in March and for the year to date. The airline has prioritized the two above categories to set itself apart from Frontier and Spirit.

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