After many months and much uncertainty, startup Breeze Airways has revealed its first route: Tampa to Charleston. Despite Silver Airways now operating this route, it remains a highly underserved leisure-driven market: 32,000 passengers flew via a hub in 2019. Breeze has said that it’ll initially have 49 non-stop routes, 15 cities, and three types of seating.
Despite revealing Tampa to Charleston, it has decided to keep the suspense going even longer. The route is not yet on sale, and at present no start date, frequency, or timings are known. But it is a start.
Nearly two months ago, Simple Flying noted that Tampa and Charleston were likely to be among the carrier’s initial three airports. The third, Panama City, could also be coming; we’ll have to wait and see.
What do we know?
From a recent interview with founder David Neeleman, conducted by Inc. magazine, we now know that:
- Tampa-Charleston will be Breeze’s first route
- It’ll initially have 49 non-stop routes
- 15 cities will be served to begin with – including Tampa and Charleston, but also Nashville, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh
- Its initial focus will mainly be on the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt
- It will have three fare classes and seating: Nice, Nicer, and Nicest
Its seating options inevitably mean that it will focus on primary airports rather than secondary, in a move that will distance itself from Allegiant. However, if it does ever compete directly or indirectly, it will be interesting to see how they interact, especially if Breeze’s average fare is not that much above Allegiant’s with a stronger hard product.
Breeze will operate Embraer 190s, which are not especially low-cost in terms of fuel consumption, but that will be offset by a lower acquisition cost. They will probably nicely suit the airline’s hybrid position while not having too many seats to fill from unnecessarily high discounts. Its A220-300s will be operated later.
Charleston is a mid-sized city that is heavily reliant on hub service, yet the airport is fast-growing. With over three million seats added between 2010 and 2019, it more than doubled in size, based on analyzing schedule data supplied by airlines to OAG. This pushed the airport from the US’ 83rd-largest airport to 62nd.
And now, in summer 2021 (S21), Charleston’s capacity has passed pre-pandemic levels. It is up by 5% over S19. However, it didn’t quite make the US’ top-20 list for most added seats since S19, but Nashville and Panama City did. The latter is one of eight Florida airports in the table.
Mainly fast-growing places
Three of the four cities mentioned by Breeze have grown very quickly if seats are related to population: Charleston at 7 times more seats than residents, Nashville at 11 times, and New Orleans at 14 times. They are heavily in demand. And the likes of Austin (9 times) and Raleigh Durham (12 times) are too.
Of those mentioned by Breeze, Nashville and New Orleans are, of course, large cities in themselves, but also very important for inbound tourism. Expect these to feature highly in Breeze’s network in the future.
Allegiant has been making strong inroads into Pittsburgh with new non-stops. However, the airport still has large numbers of unserved routes within roughly a 1,000-mile radius and it is still heavily reliant on hub connections.
Pittsburgh is more about outbound demand, with Breeze initially likely to connect it to underserved – or unserved – leisure destinations in the Southeast. It is probable that these will be very sun-focused rather than anything else, despite a plethora of opportunities.
Tampa to Charleston
Despite Breeze originally saying that it didn’t expect any of its routes to have head-to-head competition, it later said changed said that about 20% of its routes will.
Its first route will have direct competition. It will compete with Silver Airways, which serves it twice-weekly using ATR-42-600s. Going to South Carolina, the 370-mile route often has a flight time of around one hour and 40 minutes, Flightradar24 shows. It’d be an easy route to ‘win’.
In 2019, Tampa-Charleston had over 32,000 passengers connecting via a hub, booking data indicates. It remains a highly underserved leisure-driven route, so the interest in it by Breeze. And the short distance will only help further.