City News, ECONOMY

Avelo “pleased” with Salem airport performance, serving 13,000 passengers

It’s been over three months since Salem’s first flight in over a decade took off, and Avelo Airlines is reporting a successful run so far with passengers filling the majority of seats on each flight.

The commercial air service launched on Oct. 5 with a trip to Las Vegas, whose passengers included Mayor Chris Hoy, Travel Salem President Angie Villery and Salem Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Hoffert.

Since then, most flights have been over 80% full, said Avelo spokeswoman Madison Jones. 

“Since taking flight at SLE, Avelo has flown over 13,000 customers and has a perfect completion factor – meaning we haven’t canceled a single flight since inaugurating service at SLE,” Jones said in an email to Salem Reporter.

The inaugural flight’s return saw a 10.5 hour delay due to a maintenance issue, leaving Hoy and others in Las Vegas longer than anticipated. 

“In terms of our on-time performance in Salem, it’s not uncommon for a new market to need some time to catch up to our overall industry-leading reliability,” Jones said, and that Avelo as an airline overall has high-rated on-time performance. 

Avelo offers twice weekly flights to Las Vegas and Burbank, California, in the Los Angeles area.

It’s been 15 years since Salem had commercial air service. Delta who pulled out in late 2008 after a year and a half of flights.

In 2022, as part of its effort to attract airlines, the city received an $850,000 federal grant and a $350,000 grant from Travel Salem using private donations to use for minimum revenue guarantees, money airlines can apply for if they fail to meet targets during the first few years of operation. 

The airline requested a total of $24,800 of the funds in October, November and December 2023, said city spokeswoman Courtney Knox Busch,

In January, the Salem City Council approved $2.4 million from the general fund to renovate and staff the airport, and used a $540,388 state grant to cover equipment and vehicle costs.

The Phoenix and San Francisco areas have been included in various city documents as the next places the airline would expand. Those routes would be included under minimum revenue guarantees under the city’s air carrier agreement.

Jones, however, said the company has “no immediate plans” to expand service beyond its two destinations from Salem.

“We are very pleased with the initial performance in SLE and we will continuously monitor opportunities to add more service,” she said.

CORRECTION, Feb. 21 2024: Due to information previously provided by the city of Salem, this article misstated whether Avelo has asked for money to cover revenue guarantees. The airline has requested $24,800 for October-December 2023. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.