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Avelo Airlines announces non-stop flights from Kalamazoo to Orlando

Budget airline Avelo will fly non-stop from Orlando to Kalamazoo beginning this fall.

Kalamazooans looking for a fast route to Florida have a new option. Starting at the end of October, budget airline Avelo Airlines will offer non-stop flights on Mondays and Fridays to Orlando from the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport (AZO).

Jim Olson, the head of communications at Avelo Airlines, announced today’s news at the airport. It was his second stop at a Michigan airport this week. On Tuesday, Olson announced a Sunday-Thursday route to Orlando from Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport would also begin in October.

A news conference inside the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport announcing new non-stop service to Orlando.  Airport Director Craig Williams is speaking at the podium as Avelo spokesperson, Jim Olson, stands close by.
Leona Larson
Airport Director Craig Williams speaks at a news conference at AZO airport on Thursday. Directly to his right is Jim Olson, the communications head for Avelo Airlines. The two were announcing Avelo's new low-fare, non-stop service from Kalamazoo to Orlando starting in October. Avelo joins American and Delta in servicing Kalamazoo-Battle Creek.

“Our bias is towards smaller community airports where there's a huge demand to go to popular places like Orlando,” Olson explained. “Our market research showed us that there was a huge appetite here in southwestern Michigan, for not only additional choice and airlines, but to go to Florida. And so, we thought what better way to help satisfy that appetite, then offer the area's only nonstop flight down to Orlando.”

Olson also announced an introductory fare of $59 each way for trips taken between Oct. 26 and Feb. 15. Fights must be booked by Aug. 2.

“The good news is after Aug. 2 our everyday low fares will kick in, and I think people will be pleasantly surprised that our everyday low fares aren't necessarily that much more than even that $59 introductory fare,” said Olson, though he declined to say what the regular fare is.

Airport Director Craig Williams called the decision to fly out of AZO “huge.” The airport lost roughly two-thirds of its flights since the start of the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, we were averaging between 600 to 650 seats a day in the market, about 12 to 13 flights a day,” said Williams. “Post pandemic, or you know, at the end here, we were about six or seven flights a day. And then the pilot shortage hit us and now we're down to about four flights a day, which is about 200 seats a day.”

Williams said he met with Avelo Airlines about a year ago to encourage the company to come to Kalamazoo.

“The new service will reinvigorate the community,” Williams said. “It will allow people in the community, in the region, to rediscover the airport, who haven't had the opportunity for a number of years to take those nonstop flights down south. What it will mean to us numbers wise, will be about another 10 to 15% in number of seats. And we're hoping that that will stimulate other traffic and other airlines to follow suit.”

Williams said the new service may also help to lower fares from other carriers. Until now, American and Delta were the only two airlines operating out of AZO. A search for flights from Kalamazoo to Orlando on both airlines found fares starting at $530, with a layover in either Chicago or Detroit.

“Avelo brings to the table the opportunity to reduce that average airfare and give the residents of Kalamazoo in southwest Michigan an opportunity to get affordable fares to Orlando, and hopefully other communities as well in the future,” Williams said.

Olson said the planes aren’t puddle jumpers, either. The company, which is headquartered in Houston, operates what Olson described as “mainline aircraft.” The fleet of Boeing Next Generation 737 aircraft serves 29 destinations from its three bases at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Burbank Airport, southern Connecticut’s Tweed-New Haven Airport, and Orlando International Airport. If the Orlando service from Kalamazoo is a success, Olson says they’ll consider adding more destinations.

“We can't wait to see everybody in starting in October,” said Olson. “And we think the timing is perfect. Just as the cold kind of snowy weather starts to roll in. If you're looking for an excuse to escape that, we hope that you'll take a look at us.”

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special project's producer and later, as an investigative producer. Today, she splits her time as a general assignment reporter at WMUK and a part-time journalism instructor for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University. Leona prefers to use her middle name on air because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.