Travel is finally bouncing back following the doldrums of the Covid-19 pandemic, including with the launch of not one, but two new low-cost airlines in the U.S. Avelo Airlines started service out of its West Coast base of Hollywood Burbank Airport in Los Angeles at the end of April, and is ramping up services to nearly a dozen destinations in the western U.S. before setting its sights farther east later this year with a second base in New Haven, Connecticut.
Now, an East Coast upstart is also entering the fray. From JetBlue founder and former CEO David Neelman, Breeze Airways has put tickets on sale starting today after nearly three years in the offing. Fares start at just $39 each way – a nod to the airline’s 39 launch routes among 16 cities. Its first flights took place on May 27, 2021, between Tampa, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina; and from Charleston to Hartford, Connecticut, with more flights being added to the schedule throughout June and July.
Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Breeze will focus most of its operations out of four main airports: Tampa, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans. But the new carrier’s route map includes 16 cities in the Midwest, Southeast, and Eastern U.S.
The airline’s first-ever flight was scheduled to operate on May 27—just in time for the travel rush of Memorial Day Weekend—from Charleston to Tampa, and on to Hartford, Connecticut. Additional routes will be added through July.
The upstart airline is the brainchild of David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue and prolific airline creator (Breeze Airways is the fifth air carrier he’s launched; others include Brazil-based Azul and Canada’s WestJet). Neeleman’s business strategy for Breeze is to target smaller airports in cities overlooked by other carriers. “Breeze provides nonstop service between underserved routes across the U.S. at affordable fares,” he said in a statement on Friday. “A staggering 95 percent of Breeze routes currently have no airline serving them nonstop.”
Additional destinations include Providence; San Antonio; Pittsburgh; Akron; and Huntsville, Alabama, among others. This summer, the carrier’s average flight length will be about two hours.And there are already plans in the works to expand Breeze’s route network in the near future. “These 16 cities are just the beginning for Breeze,” Neeleman said. “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s air service has meant many secondary markets and smaller cities have seen a significant reduction in flights. There are so many city pairs needing nonstop service around the country, we have a further 100 cities under consideration.”
Breeze will start with a fleet of 13 single-class Embraer E-190 and E-195 regional planes this summer. Each plane seats between 108 and 118 people and seats are in a two-by-two layout, meaning there are no dreaded middled spots. In October, the airline will start taking delivery of 60 larger, brand new Airbus A220 planes. (Breeze is scheduled to receive one of the planes per month for the next five years.) The airline says its A220s will include a premium cabin class and operate on routes longer than two hours.
The onboard experience
With his new venture, Neeleman seems to be centering the brand on the same friendly, budget-conscious ethos that put JetBlue on the map with travelers. Breeze bills itself as the U.S.’s “seriously nice” carrier, and says it will use “technology, ingenuity, and kindness to improve the travel experience.” Its fare classes range from “Nice,” “Nicer,” and “Nicest.”
“Nicest,” Breeze’s premium business class product, will debut in the fall onboard the A220 planes. The other two fare class are bookable now. “Nicer” fares come with perks like a free checked bag, a carry-on bag, priority boarding, complimentary drink and snack, as well as extra legroom (between 33 and 39 inches of pitch, depending on the aircraft).
“Nice” is the cheapest option, which only covers a personal item—such as a purse or backpack—and a seat with between 29 and 31 inches of pitch. That amount of space is on par with ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit, but fliers also have the option to upgrade to an extra legroom seat for a fee. There are extra charges to choose a seat (starting at $10), and bring a carry-on for the overhead bin or check a bag ($20 for either). Although it’s structured like a basic economy fare, it’s not as restrictive as similar products on other airlines.
All fares, including the cheapest, have flexible ticketing policies, with no change or cancellation fees. According to Breeze’s statement: “Guests can change or cancel a flight up to 15 minutes before scheduled departure without penalty. Unused funds from changes and cancellations are automatically saved in the guest’s Breeze account and do not expire for 24 months.” All flights will feature free in-flight entertainment—TV shows and games—that will stream to personal devices. The Airbus A220 planes will also have in-flight Wi-Fi. Fares are on sale now at flybreeze.com.