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May 6, 2022

Avelo Airlines mounts new flights from Tweed amid turbulence

Photo | Liese Klein Avelo Airlines COO Greg Baden, right, speaks at a celebration of the company's six months flying from Tweed New Haven Airport on May 5, 2022.

There was a novel backdrop to Avelo Airlines’ celebratory event at Tweed New Haven Airport on Thursday: The hubbub of a crowd in a nearby departure area, travelers walking by with suitcases and a worker wheeling a cart of bottled drinks into the terminal.

These signs of a bustling airport – along with near-full parking areas at the front and sides of the terminal on a weekday morning – testify to Avelo’s success in siting its East Coast hub at Tweed. 

Celebrating the launch of four new flights from Tweed to new destinations, Avelo COO Greg Baden said the startup airline has had a successful first year. The first new U.S. airline in nearly 15 years, Avelo operated 5,300 flights, carried 630,000 customers and flew more than 4 million miles in its first year, he said.

New flights to Chicago, Raleigh-Durham, Washington D.C. and Wilmington, N.C. start in the next few weeks.

“A big contributor to that success has been Tweed,” Baden said, adding that by summer Avelo will fly to 14 different destinations from New Haven. Avelo announced last month that it would make Orlando its second East Coast hub and earlier said it would start flying to Chicago and Washington, D.C.

“I want to say thank you to all of our customers for giving us in New Haven a chance,” Baden added. “We know we have a lot of work yet to do to continue making Tweed Southern Connecticut's most convenient and popular airport.”

Neighborhood pushback

Photo | Liese Klein

Yet even as Avelo celebrates its success, residents living near the airport continue their opposition to growth at the airport. “Stop Tweed Expansion” read bright red and yellow signs on several lawns Thursday along New Haven’s Townsend Avenue, the main entrance route to Tweed. 

On the governmental side, East Haven Mayor Joe Carfora announced in his March 30 State of the Town address that he would oppose the construction of a new Tweed terminal on East Haven’s side of the airport property.

“At this point I cannot support nor can I recommend to our town council that we accept and support the terminal expansion… to the East Haven side,” Carfora said, to loud cheers from an audience of town officials and residents. 

“This project will not be placed on the backs of the town of East Haven and it is clear that the burdens will,” Carfora said. “Traffic, flooding, environmental, public safety, operational costs and capital necessities are monumental and they far outweigh any direct limited economic benefit to East Haven.” 

A new terminal on the East Haven side is a linchpin to Tweed's $100 million expansion plan, which includes a longer runway. The runway lengthening will actually decrease noise, Bader said on Thursday, as it allows aircraft to use less thrust and braking power on takeoff and landing.

The area around Tweed and New Haven's shoreline are among the areas most vulnerable to the rising waters from climate change in Connecticut, recent environmental reports have found. 

Photo | Liese Klein
Tweed New Haven Airport Executive Director Sean Scanlon speaks on May 5, 2022.

Tweed General Manager Sean Scanlon said that the majority of East Haveners are voting with their wallets: East Haven residents fly Avelo at a greater per capita percentage than most other towns. 

“I think this service has been something that's been well-received,” Scanlon said. “Are there concerns that we hear? Absolutely. Are we trying to address those concerns? Absolutely. And am I confident that we will address them? Yes.”

As for the East Haven mayor’s concerns, Scanlon said he and his team are actively working to address them. 

“We will continue working together to address his constituents’ concerns, and I believe we can ultimately get to a good place,” Scanlon said. 

New Haven’s mayor, Justin Elicker, maintained his support for Tweed’s revitalization at Thursday’s event, tying it to his vision of an improved city economy.

“We have beentrying to do things in a thoughtful way, considerate of the neighborhood as well,” Elicker said. “We've been on the phone a lot trying to address some of the concerns that typically come up when we have some growth in an airport.”

The airport’s 150 new jobs and low fares have earned support from most New Haveners, Elicker said. 

“People are using this airport, and people from all different economic backgrounds are using it because it is affordable. It is convenient,” Elicker said. “I think it reflects a lot of the values that we talked about around inclusive growth.”

Elicker’s enthusiasm has been shared by the regional business community. 

Rick Wies, founding partner of Gregg Wies & Gardner Architects of New Haven, said, “The tech healthcare and higher ed sectors are fundamental drivers of my firm's architecture business… They all demand good transportation facilities.” 

“Avelo’s success here in southern Connecticut gives me confidence to expand my business,” Wies said.

Unionization drive

Amid its embrace by the local business community, Avelo Airlines has also encountered some turbulence with a unionization effort originating in its West Coast hub, Burbank, Calif. 

Starting in October, a group of Burbank flight attendants organized to join the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) union. In response to the unionization drive, Avelo filed a lawsuit seeking to allow more flight attendants to take part in the unionization vote. 

On April 13, the National Mediation Board ruled that a majority of eligible workers had voted to join the AFA.  

In a news release, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson accused Avelo of mounting “an aggressive anti-union campaign.” She added, “Now, it’s time for Avelo management to stop wasting time and money fighting its workers, and collaborate with them to lock in a contract that respects workers and strengthens the airline.”

Avelo spokesman Jim Olson said the unionization drive was unfair because the vote involved only 14 of the airline’s nearly 100 flight attendants. The number was so low because eligibility for the election was determined by hire date and most of the startup’s workers had yet to be employed when the date was set, according to Olson.

“We don't feel that all of our flight attendants, especially our East Coast flight attendants, –  whether they were going to vote for the union or not – they just never got a chance to voice their interest in a very, very important decision,” Olson said. 

“This will impact them in a big way,” Olson said, adding that contract negotiations under the union will likely take many months. 

As a small startup airline, Avelo prefers to negotiate directly with its 400 workers, Olson said. 

“We’re very fast moving,” Olson said. “That direct collaboration and co-creation of the building of the company… we continue to feel that is the best way and the fastest way and the most impactful way to grow our company.”

Contact Liese Klein at

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