Exciting US Startup Airline: Breeze Airways – What We Know So Far

When David Neeleman puts his name to a new livery, the market is bound to pay attention. If WestJet, JetBlue, and Azul Brazilian Airlines’ successes are anything to go by, Breeze Airways could shake things up considerably on the US market in the years to come. As a launch of operations for what its founder is calling ‘the World’s Nicest Airline’ inches closer, here is what we know about Breeze Airways so far.

Breeze Airways
Breeze Airways is one of the most exciting new airlines in 2021. Photo: Breeze Airways

If approved, ticket sales launch within a month

Starting up an airline during the gravest crisis in the history of commercial aviation may seem like an odd and daring endeavor. And yet, several carriers are hoping to edge their way in on the market and challenge the pre-crisis status quo as things reshuffle in the quest for recovery.

One such project is David Neeleman’s new enterprise Breeze Airways. The new airline hopes to launch ticket sales in less than a month’s time, subject to approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation (DoT).

A little over a week ago, Breeze received tentative approval from the DoT to commence operations, clearing the airline to fly up to 22 aircraft. The DoT will now be taking comments regarding objections as to why the airline should not be allowed to launch. If none is received, that means it will be less than ten days until the US’ latest airline has its official approval.

E190 Breeze
Breeze has received tentative approval to fly in the US. Photo: NAC

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Filling the gap where people want to fly

Although very little has been made public about the airline so far, it is set to focus on low fares along with a positive customer service while trying to stir the pot for the major carriers currently dominating the US market.

“Today, we are getting back to the point where there is a lot of concentration in the industry and the legacies aren’t doing a lot of flying that people really want. So we are going to try to fill that gap. If there is an opportunity, then I can build a better mousetrap and do something that others aren’t doing and can’t do,” Mr Neeleman said in an interview with Condé Nast Traveler when first announcing the new venture in 2018.

Breeze E190
Breeze received its first Embraer regional jet earlier this year and intends to grow its fleet to 22 before the end of 2021. Photo: Breeze Airways

From Moxy to Embraer-powered Breeze

The airline was initially conceived as Moxy Airways in June 2018. However, as this clashed with hospitality chain Marriott’s Moxy Hotels trademark, the name change to Breeze Airways was announced in February last year. The intention was to launch during 2020, but given the circumstances, the date was pushed back to 2021.

Thus far, the airline has taken delivery of two Embraer E190 aircraft – one ERJ-195 and one ERJ-190, leased from Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC). According to data from Planespotters.net, another five are due to arrive with the carrier before long.

Breeze intends to grow its fleet to 22 Embraers jets before the end of 2021. To do that, it has three separate agreements in place. Fifteen E190s and E195s are to be leased from NAC, complementing with jets from Neeleman alumni Azul Brazilian Airlines. Furthermore, the carrier has said it will add a third lease before launch.

The plan is to use the regional jets on US markets that “bigger airlines have overlooked or did not consider worth the effort.” This translates into mid-sized city pairs currently not served by non-stop flights. According to Breeze’s application for an Air Operator Certificate, filed in February 2020, it will begin operating east of the Mississippi River.

Airbus A220
Breeze has an order for 60 of the Airbus A220-300. Photo: Airbus

Looking at 500 city pairs with the A220

Beyond the initial all-Embraer offering, Breeze has chosen Airbus and the much-lauded A220 as its aircraft. The airline has an order for 60 of the A220-300, initially scheduled to begin arriving in 2021.

“We’re looking at 500 city pairs. Because our planes have low trip costs, 15-20% lower trip cost than what Allegiant has with their A319, we only need about 50 people on board to cover the operating cost of the airplane. We don’t really have to be in big markets,” Mr Neeleman said in a February 2020 interview with Business Insider.

“In a lot of these markets, we won’t have daily service, we’ll fly just a few days a week. If another airline does point-to-point with us, we’ll just do it other days,” Mr Neeleman continued.

Breeze Embraer
The carrier will use its Embraer fleet to operate underserved city-pairs in the US. Photo: Breeze Airways

Successful track record for its founder

With a history of successful airline startups on his CV, if anyone can make a new US operator a hit at a time like this, it is David Neeleman. The Brazilian-American entrepreneur is responsible for no less than five commercial airlines.

Morris Air was launched in 1992 and based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Southwest Airlines purchased the low-cost airline, which at the time had 21 Boeing 737-300s, for over $120 million in stock in 1993.

Mr Neeleman’s Canadian undertaking, WestJet, began as a low-cost alternative to the country’s major airlines. Today, it has grown to become Canada’s second-largest carrier.

Founded in 1994, it initially served four destinations with three second-hand Boeing 737-200 aircraft. Today, crisis notwithstanding, WestJet flies to over 100 destinations across North America and Central America, Europe, and the Caribbean.

David Neeleman JetBlue
JetBlue Airways is one of David Neeleman’s big successes. Photo: Getty Images

JetBlue has fared even better. Founded by Mr Neeleman in 1998 and commencing operations in 2000, it has grown to become the seventh-largest airline in North America by passengers carried. The New York-based ‘hybrid airline’ is soon set to shake up the transatlantic market with its A321LRs equipped with its premium Mint cabin.

Meanwhile, further south, Azul has quickly grown from its all-Embraer beginnings in 2008 to incorporate, among others, 42 A320neos and 12 Airbus A330s. Newer, more fuel-efficient variants will replace the Embraers the airline will lease to Breeze.

What do you make of the future trajectory of Breeze Airways? Will it be another hit for David Neeleman? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.