An up-and-coming airline will soon fly in and out of Daytona Beach, now that the County Council has decided to ensure a soft landing.

Avelo Airlines will begin twice-weekly service from Daytona Beach to New Haven, Connecticut, in June, as a result of the council’s decision to underwrite, if necessary, the startup cost of the company’s expansion to the county’s airport.

“There’s a lot of connections between New Haven and Daytona Beach,” Avelo Airlines Communications Manager Courtney Goff announced April 5 at Daytona Beach International Airport, ending the secrecy surrounding the new travel option.

Avelo’s twice-weekly flights at DBIA will begin June 22, she said.

“We have 15 aircraft in our fleet right now,” Goff said, adding the planes are Boeing 737s.

She said fares will start as low as $49.

Avelo became airborne in April 2021, with flights between Burbank and Sonoma County in California, and the airline has expanded across the country since then. Avelo’s headquarters are in Houston.

Following a protracted debate over whether government should use tax dollars to sway private business decisions, the council April 4 voted to allocate $1 million as a sort of safety cushion for the low-fare carrier to do business at Daytona Beach International Airport.

At the time of their discussion, members of the governing body did not know the name of the airline requesting the county’s help. That would not be disclosed until the next day.

“I’m concerned about this,” Council Member Troy Kent said. “Is the juice worth the squeeze? … No one in the community knows the name of this airline.”

As is common in economic-development negotiations between government and private corporations, the details of such dealings are shrouded in confidentiality until an agreement is final and ready for announcement to the public.

The case for standby support from the county was made by Aviation and Economic Resources Director Cyrus Callum.

“This is about people who otherwise would not come to our community,” Callum told the council. “Having an ultralow-cost carrier … we’re able to take on people who would otherwise go to Orlando.”

The debate was intense and passionate. Even critics of government intervention in free markets were willing to change their stance to draw more service to an airport that faces stiff competition from Orlando and Sanford.

The next day, Avelo’s advent to DBIA was confirmed in a formal announcement inside the airport terminal.

For about two hours — about the time needed to fly from Florida to New England — the council wrestled with the opportunity to bring another airline and the risk of putting up public monies in a time of economic uncertainty.

“I have a little bit of a problem with that,” Council Vice Chair Danny Robins said. “I kind of play hardball in this area.”

“The million dollars is just a pot of money that helps to stabilize,” Callum said. “What makes airlines stay is people using the airline.”

Callum said airlines need an “85-percent load factor” of passengers to make a flight profitable. The reserved county dollars would be available only if the carrier needs the support. He likened the reserve dollars to “training wheels” on a bicycle, which would be taken away once a person no longer needs them.

“We have to prove ourselves as a small airport,” Callum said. “This is a pot of money. If this takes off, they never touch it.”

“I’m not a fan of this,” Robins said.

County Chair Jeff Brower complimented Callum for forging the then-pending deal.

“You’ve negotiated a hard deal,” Brower told Callum. “At some point, I’ve got to trust you. … You think it will work. … I think we do need a lowfare airline.”

“In order to get there, we have to start somewhere,” Callum said.

“There is some risk for us. There’s always risk,” Brower said.

While admitting he was troubled by “the secret piece” of the deal, Council Member David Santiago also complimented Callum.

“I’m trusting the man,” Santiago said of Callum. “I think the risk is low.”

“I think we can do better,” Robins said.

“This is the best we could negotiate,” Callum said.

Brower, with a reputation as a fiscal conservative, spoke out in favor of using public funds in the free market.

“We’re talking about investing taxpayers’ money,” he said. “We need other airlines there. … I’m going to support it.”

“I’m not a gambling person, but it’s a gamble either way,” Council Member Matt Reinhart said. “My district is Daytona. They want to see more airlines.”

Council Member Don Dempsey opposed the deal.

“I think we’re coming to a fiscal cliff, and the economy is about to crash,” he told his colleagues, urging against using public funds to spur private business activity.

“The airlines need us. We need them,” Callum said.

When the vote finally came, the council voted 4-2 in favor of putting up $1 million from the county’s general fund to guarantee a backstop for Avelo against insufficient passenger loads on its flights from DBIA.

Persuaded by Callum and his colleagues, Kent joined Brower, Reinhart and Santiago to approve the measure. Robins and Dempsey dissented. Council Member Jake Johansson was absent at the time of the vote.

DBIA’s mainstay air carriers are American Airlines and Delta. The airport also has a great deal of general aviation, or smaller aircraft, plus the flight operations of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.


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