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The New Haven Experience

Southern Connecticut residents now have many new options when booking air travel. For years, coastal communities have had to incorporate lengthy drives to New York City or Hartford for their getaways. Tweed New Haven Airport has seen sporadic service for years, some from major airlines. The last legacy carrier to serve New Haven was American Airlines, with thrice-daily service to Philadelphia, which terminated in September 2021.

Now, thanks to Avelo Airlines, New Haven is a thriving airport driving record numbers of passengers. In 2021, the airport enplaned a mere 29,000 passengers. In 2022, this number skyrocketed to 372,000, making it one of the busiest commercial airports in the region in terms of passenger volume and the largest growth percentage in the country (by far). Tweed is expected to handle over 500,000 passenger enplanements this year, putting the cumulative million-passenger milestone within reach.

The Airport

Admittedly, the airport is in desperate need of expansion, a good problem to have for local authorities. The small terminal, equipped with a single jetbridge that Avelo barely uses, can only handle so much on a regular day. With so many routes to Florida, any irregular operation (IROP) will result in significant congestion within the confines of the small terminal, a rare but possible occurrence.

Expanding has been a point of contention within the local community for years. The City of New Haven and the Town of East Haven, where the airport geographically lies, have been in a legal dispute that has elevated as far as the Supreme Court. Essentially, The City of New Haven recognizes the potential of the airport can only be reached with a new terminal and longer runway, which the Town of East Haven does not want. The City of New Haven owns the airport.

The airport is situated residentially in the center of the East Haven community, where residents have gone from being exposed to three regional jets to fifteen Boeing 737s daily. Many aviation enthusiasts defend airports by saying, "If you knew the airport was there, don't move there!" However, this is an exception where the airport is seeing traffic growth at a rate rarely duplicated in history.

The New Haven market has long been understood amongst those involved in air service development to have immense untapped potential. Once American Airlines pulled out, New Haven became the country's largest demographic without air service. Andrew Levy, C.E.O. of Avelo, has had his eyes on New Haven for some time - during his tenure at Allegiant Air, a Letter of Intent (LOI) was signed agreeing to serve New Haven once the runway was extended past 6000’.

Traveling to the airport is a breeze, as it is located just beyond the junction of I-95 and I-91, which have Avelo billboards plastered in all directions to cast a wider net. The terminal is located on the west side of the airport, which is often confusing for Uber drivers since the only location their services are available is on the east side, where the private terminal is.

If you are an Uber customer, please be wary of where you are being picked up or dropped off, as at this time, no agreement between the airport and the company exists. Lyft is fair game as they are allowed unrestricted transportation rights to and from the airport.

This is essential knowledge as the parking situation at Tweed is somewhat complex and costly, making passenger drop-off the ideal way to travel to and from the airport. The original terminal designers must have underestimated the number of passengers Tweed would handle one day because parking fills up quickly during busy times of the year.

Thanks to a newly-designed website, you can see the total number available and book parking in advance. There are three lots to choose from, recently renamed for simplification purposes.

  • Lot A - $5 per hour/$29 per day.

  • Lot B - $4 per hour/$23 per day.

  • Lot C - $3 per hour/$18 per day.

Photo: Park HVN.

Getting to and from New York City is difficult but not impossible. The city's rail line connects via the Metro North Rail Road, approximately an hour and change from Manhattan's Grand Central Station, also traveling through many large communities along the Southern Connecticut coastline. A shuttle into the city is available to the Temple Street Garage, a walkable distance to New Haven's Union Station.

Much of the terminal is patched together to optimize things until the new structure is opened sometime in the next five years. Arrivals and departures have dedicated buildings, and a makeshift Gate 3 hold room was made to accommodate an extra boarding area. TSA PreCheck is available for those who are enrolled.

While the terminal may seem confined from the outside, there is a good amount of room inside in passenger waiting areas. Additionally, there is a nice cafe adjacent to Gate 3 where local New Haven amenities can be found, particularly with their delicious coffee. As previously mentioned, you can expect to board your aircraft from outdoor bridges, similar to what is commonly found at many European airports.

With the airport geographically sitting next to the water, the airport can be subject to foggy weather. Unfortunately, the infrastructure does not currently exist to allow much flexibility regarding visibility minimums. The result is that occasionally aircraft will have to divert northbound to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, CT - the exact airport New Haven is pulling 77% of its customers away from. However, this is a relatively rare occasion.

About Avelo

Many passengers often ask about the new carrier Avelo Airlines, which is a fair question. Little was known about Avelo before they announced New Haven as their East Coast hub. Their West Coast hub, Hollywood-Burbank, struggled considerably at the time. Since then, the airline has taken giant steps forward and is on the verge of profitability, opening operating bases in places such as Wilmington, D.E., and Raleigh-Durham.

With many ultra-low-cost carriers comes a hefty reputation of poor customer service and nickel-and-diming, a la Frontier and Spirit. However, that is not exactly what you are getting when booking Avelo. Fares are still structured similarly, but Avelo can keep its costs low by serving smaller airports with minimal or non-existent competitive air service. These airports generate very user-friendly deals to attract customers with ultra-low fares.

With a fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, Avelo can rather comfortably seat 147 passengers (Boeing 737-700) or 189 passengers (Boeing 737-800). Both are used on routes in and out of New Haven - the Boeing 737-700s were actually acquired to launch service to Tweed due to its 5,600' runway.

There is much to like about the direction Avelo is heading. Take, for example, their operating base at Orlando-MCO. Instead of opening a base there right away with a handful of cities that may or may not work, Avelo instead launched routes one-by-one that they knew would work, eventually totaling enough to justify opening a base. It is almost like they reverse opened a base in one of the country's well-known airports.

Compared to their competitor Breeze Airways, they outperform them in every metric and actually have a clear direction. As the brand grows and people become familiar with the name, look for Avelo to reach levels of success replicated by Allegiant and Sun Country, making cities like New Haven and Wilmington a destination on the map once again.

Where Can I Get To From HVN?

A part of Avelo's business model is centered around less-than-daily flying, allowing the community to connect with several attractive destinations on popular days of the week. However, some markets like Orlando-MCO see multiple, sometimes as many as three, daily flights depending on the season.

New Haven is similar to other reliever airports, such as Bradley International Airport and Westchester County Airport, where most travelers value more convenient leisure markets, like Florida, than service to a hub. Direct flights are now available from Tweed to eight destinations in Florida, all thriving with full aircraft. Other emerging getaway destinations, such as Charleston and Wilmington, have been a hit so far.

This is not to say that New Haven is limited to just leisure travelers. Popular non-leisure markets from Tweed, such as Chicago-Midway and Raleigh-Durham, are also thriving. This versatility allows Avelo to serve more needs at an affordable cost, driving more passengers away from the competition in favor of cheaper direct flights.

Once the runway is extended to approximately 6,600’, you can expect Avelo to add service to destinations such as San Juan or New Orleans. If you are not knowledgeable of airline networks, I would be remiss not to point out that airports like Baltimore-Washington, Chicago-Midway, and Nashville allow indirect interconnectivity into Southwest Airlines' extensive route network.

With Avelo, you can reliably fly to:
  • Baltimore-Washington.

  • Charleston, S.C.

  • Chicago-Midway.*

  • Daytona Beach.

  • Fort Lauderdale.

  • Fort Myers.

  • Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.

  • Myrtle Beach, S.C.

  • Nashville.

  • Orlando-MCO.

  • Orlando-Melbourne.

  • Raleigh-Durham.

  • Sarasota, F.L.

  • Savannah, G.A.

  • Tampa.

  • West Palm Beach.

  • Wilmington, N.C.

* indicates seasonal service.

HVN Moving Forward

New Haven is in the middle of a transitional period as they prepare to undergo significant capital improvement projects to extend the main runway and build a new terminal. While not much has been publicly released regarding the specifics, you can assume it will adequately adjust to Avelo's desired capacity. At the moment, not much else will change until the runway is stretched to its greatest length.

Avelo does face competition in all directions from ultra-low-cost carrier Breeze Airways. With an operating base in Windsor Locks and Providence and a decent presence in Westchester, Breeze is doing what it can to protect its market share from going entirely to Avelo.

It is hard to say if there will be any new entrants to Tweed's arsenal of carriers. An airline like Sun Country makes a lot of sense - less than daily to Minneapolis, at least seasonally, would be a great fit. However, I know little about their cost structuring and how things are set up to protect Avelo from anyone looking to start service to Tweed.

My guess is likely not for the foreseeable future. While the market is definitely there, Avelo seems to drive away competition - it is just not worth the trouble to many larger carriers. These markets are already marginal in their eyes, and by adding more routes, some believe they will over-saturate the product.

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