Breeze Airways Wants International Flights: What Might We See?

International routes are coming to Breeze Airways, potentially this year. The new entrant, whose first commercial flight took off nearly two months ago, has put out a request for proposals to airports for service to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Western Europe. We delve into what may happen.

Breeze Airways inaugural
Breeze Airways may begin international service by the end of this year. Photo: Tampa International Airport.

Breeze’s international routes are expected to be served by its incoming A220-300s, of which it has 80 on order (60 are on firm order). The first of its firm order is due in October, with one delivery every month for the next five years.

They’ll be complete with a premium cabin using Safran Seats’ Z600 chaise-style business class seat. The hard product is set to include live inflight connectivity and stream-to-your-own-device inflight entertainment, both more important for longer sectors.

Breeze Airways
We expect that shorter and less risky international service to Mexico, the Caribbean, and possibly Central America will begin first. Photo: Tampa International Airport.

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First international routes this year?

Breeze has issued a request for proposal (RFP) to international airports via the Route Exchange platform. A RFP is a way for an airline to received standardized information from a large number of airports to help in the evaluation process.

Route Exchange complements Routes’ various World Route Development Forums, which are in-person events. These including ‘speed dating’ between airlines and airports that agree to it. The author attended many of these events in a previous role.

The following is what is said on Routes’ website. Note that, in reality, it is highly likely that the vast majority of international routes will be unserved, in keeping with Breeze’s current domestic routes. And to reduce risk, let alone during a pandemic, we think shorter tourist and visiting friends and relatives (VFR) international routes to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America are more likely.

“Airports with cost structures and facilities suitable for Airbus A220-300 operations have been invited to participate by first completing a prequalifying questionnaire with a submission deadline of Friday 23 July. Successful applicants will then be asked to submit a formal response for evaluation which could lead to the launch of new routes later this year.” [Emphasis by this author.]

Breeze Airways
It’s not just Breeze getting in on the act. Several previously unserved routes have started this year. For example, Spirit began New Orleans to San Pedro Sula (~23,000 round-trip passengers in 2019), Vivaaerobus San Antonio-León (11,000), and American Airlines from Austin to places including Los Cabos (26,000), Puerto Vallarta (13,000), Liberia (12,000), San Juan (43,000), Punta Cana (12,000), and Nassau (18,000). Photo: Breeze Airways.

Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America

To help narrow down possible opportunities, we are sticking to Breeze’s current airport network of 16 US airports (otherwise, it becomes unwieldy in a short article). Not all are set up for international service, but they could be. However, many are, such as Tampa, Charleston, Columbus, Hartford, Providence, San Antonio, and New Orleans. And we have stuck to no more than 2,000 miles.

Top unserved international routes to Mexico, Caribbean, Central America from Breeze's current 16 airports
These are the largest unserved routes from Breeze’s 16 current US airports. They have a minimum of 11,000 round-trip passengers and are all within 2,000 miles. They have an average of 17,000 passengers (before stimulation) and an average distance of 1,362 miles. Note: obviously, not all of these US airports are presently set up for international commercial passenger operations. Image: GCMap.

~2.9 million passengers

From these 16 US airports, approximately 3.9 million round-trip passengers flew to/from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America in 2019. That’s based on booking data obtained from OAG Traffic Analyzer.

Of these ~3.9 million, an estimated 2.9 million – three quarters – flew indirectly via a hub. This hub-busting is the main opportunity for Breeze. Crucial in new route development is demand stimulation. Demand would meaningfully grow from Breeze’s non-stop service, lower fares, and a pretty good product.

The following 11 destinations had over half of the 2.9 million, with many obvious places:

  1. Cancun: approximately 439,000 round-trip indirect passengers in 2019
  2. Montego Bay: 225,000
  3. Nassau: 165,000
  4. San Juan: 145,000
  5. Punta Cana: 131,000
  6. San Jose (Costa Rica): 127,000
  7. Los Cabos: 121,000
  8. Puerto Vallarta: 79,000
  9. Guatemala City: 63,000
  10. San Pedro Sula: 49,000
  11. Santo Domingo: 48,000
Top-10 largest unserved markets
These are the top-10 largest unserved markets. With 41,000 passengers, Pittsburgh to Montego Bay (MBJ) is #1, followed by Pittsburgh to Punta Cana (PUJ) and Columbus to Montego Bay. Image: GCMap.

Why do airlines and airports work together?

While airlines will always do profitability and similar analysis in-house, many use airports to help decide what routes may make sense. Breeze is no different.

After all, while airlines have access to historical passenger data and other data tools, they rarely have the same local information that an airport will. This especially relates to the local catchment area of an airport, leakage data from that catchment, and so on. In this local expertise sense, airports are often an important – but just one – source of information.

Breeze Airways
Routes events and online platforms are designed to increase communication and knowledge, and ultimately help launch new routes. Photo: Breeze Airways

Based on the author’s time at London Luton Airport, some airlines (especially well-established ultra-low-cost carriers) are happy with just an Excel file of leakage data showing how underserved a market is. And some required nothing at all. In comparison, other airlines preferred a much more comprehensive analysis to understand a market and see what may make sense.

Where would you like to see Breeze fly internationally? Let us know in the comments.