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Salem Airport will have Commercial Flights beginning in October

Written by Luis Ramirez on Aug. 24th, 2023
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Commercial flights will soon make their way back to the Salem Municipal Airport (SLE) for the first time since 2008.

Avelo Airlines will be operating out of McNary Field and will be offering nonstop service from Salem to Las Vegas and Burbank, Calif., which is located in Los Angeles County.

Beginning on October 5, Avelo will operate two non-stop flights from Salem to Las Vegas on Thursday and Sundays. They will also operate two flights between Salem and Burbank on Fridays and Mondays but will adjust to Thursdays and Sundays on November 2. 

Based on how well these flights do, Avelo and Fly Salem hope to add stops in Phoenix and San Francisco.

The process to bring commercial service to Salem has been a long time coming and was delayed with the pandemic.

“We started over 5 years, and we’ve been talking to various airlines at national conferences trying to recruit to the Mid-Willamette Valley and educate them about the area,” Fly Salem spokesperson Brent DeHart said. “The original conversations were about getting a major carrier to a major hub. That changed after the pandemic with the pilot shortage and the 737 was grounded, which created a shortage.” 

Avelo Airlines has been in operation since 2021 and is headquartered in Houston, Tx. They fly to 45 different destinations in 24 states across the United States. They are an ultra-low-cost carrier and are focused on flying out of smaller and more convenient airports for the consumer. 

“As the first airline to serve the capital city in nearly 15 years, Avelo makes getting to your favorite destinations easier and more affordable than ever,” Avelo Airlines chairman and CEO Andrew Levy said in a press release. “Say goodbye to the hassle of long and expensive gas-guzzling drives to other distant airports, and say hello to a new era of convenience, low fares and reliability.”

The efforts of the Fly Salem Steering Committee helped make this a reality. They were formed in 2018 with representatives from Travel Salem, the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, the Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR) and the City of Salem Airport Manager.

 “The segment that is growing is the ultra-low-cost option like Avelo and other carriers include Allegiant, Frontier, etc,” DeHart said. “They’re the ones that are growing. The conversation flipped to a more cost-effective airline. We bought the data to find out where people are going, who they’re flying, and what they’re paying. That’s how we knew we’d be able to support the service.”

The main reason for bringing commercial service to the area is the expected boon for the local economy. It would help give more people access to the Mid-Willamette wineries and add more jobs.

“With Avelo, we’re really happy that they align with our markets,” DeHart said. “We’re hoping we’ll be successful, so we’ll attract additional carriers. Our goal is a legacy carrier like American, United, or even Alaska. That won’t happen for 3-4 years. Give us an opportunity to prove ourselves as a market.” 

The City of Salem responded in January when they allocated $2.3 million of their general fund to help renovate the terminal and hire airport employees. 

“If the community supports it, then we will continue to grow and the demand will be there,” DeHart said. “Our metrics are favorable to a lot of other west coast cities that have service. Our initial launch was really the business community trying to connect to the world. We’re not done, the goal is to get Salem connected to the world.”

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