Launching an airline is never easy, but launching one in the middle of a pandemic is an entirely different story. Breeze Airways decided it was time to launch. Launching 39 routes within a matter of weeks, the airline learned a lot this summer, but by and large, it was a successful one for the carrier. Simple Flying spoke with the airline’s founder, David Neeleman, to learn more about the carrier’s summer.
Strong summer loads for a startup
Breeze Airways recorded very healthy load factors throughout its launch season. As Mr. Neeleman stated:
“We’ve seen a lot of factors in the 60s and 70s [percent] and some routes are doing better than others, but it’s just getting people flying on us and telling their friends and getting the word out, and it just takes a while to mature.”
The load factor performance is impressive for a startup. Even some major US airlines have trouble notching load factors in that range on new route launches.
Breeze Airways launched with a splash. Given Mr. Neeleman’s success with JetBlue in the United States, all eyes were on Breeze to see where it would launch, the strategies it would take, and how it would perform. Even with Mr. Neeleman’s long history in the industry, Breeze Airways did not start with a lot of name recognition, which takes time to build up.
The schedule pull-downs
In July, Breeze Airways announced it was pulling down some of its schedules. Several routes received frequency cuts, and questions began to swirl about why the airline had to cut down flying. The airline indicated the reason behind the schedule reductions was to handle schedule integrity and keep more spares around. As Mr. Neeleman explained:
“Operational integrity is really important to us. So, we’re gonna keep more spares. These planes are so inexpensive. There’s just no reason not to have spare coverage and have a great operation – it makes a lot of sense. So that’s we’re going to do. On a lot of these planes we have by power by the hour, we don’t pay for them unless we use them. There’s no reason to push the envolope. We did it for a little bit there. We pulled back, and now we’re content to stay where we’re at.”
A success point for Breeze is that it recognized it got out over its skis but then corrected the course and plans to use the lessons it learned. The biggest driver for the airline are the power-by-the-hour leases, which makes it cheaper for the airline to keep spare aircraft around and out of the schedule to cover for any operational disruptions. This will help preserve the airline’s operational reliability in the years to come.
One example includes what the airline is planning on doing with its Airbus A220s. To start, the airline is planning on putting its initial A220s on existing routes to get familiarity with operating the aircraft before using them on new routes.
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Opportunities in the future
Despite launching just a few months ago, there is a lot of interest in Breeze. As Mr. Neeleman stated, the airline “has airports lined up around the block” trying to gain new service.
One of the reasons why Breeze Airways is a lucrative carrier is that it operates a point-to-point model. The airline bypasses large hubs and sells nonstop itineraries on largely underserved routes.
The airline is even looking at the possibility of international routes. While nothing has been announced just yet, on a short- and medium-haul basis, there are plenty of new route opportunities that either an Embraer E190 or an Airbus A220 could serve well.
Altogether, Breeze Airways is coming off of a relatively successful summer. It has shown it is here to stay, including receiving a vote of confidence from the investment community and taking the lessons it learned from the summer with it into the future. While it did have to pare back its schedules, the carrier is remaining pragmatic.
Did you fly Breeze this summer? Do you plan to fly Breeze in the future? What routes do you want to see Breeze fly? Let us know in the comments!