Breeze is ready to take flight. The newest US carrier announced its route network today, serving 39 nonstop routes between 16 cities in the Southwest, Midwest, Southeast and Eastern US. The airline will waste no time getting its planes into service. The first flights will operate next Thursday, from Tampa to Charleston and then to Hartford.
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. Flying nonstop, Breeze will get you there in half the time, but also for about half the price!– Breeze founder and CEO David Neeleman
The company intends to add aircraft in the coming weeks, getting to a fleet of 13 E190 family planes by mid-Summer. The routes available will continue to expand on a weekly basis through July as the company scales up its operations.
Initial crew bases are planned for Tampa, FL; Charleston, SC; New Orleans, LA; and Norfolk, VA. The company is actively hiring pilots to staff its operations in these cities.
Flight attendants, however, will operate under a different structure. The company hopes most will be part-time workers also enrolled full-time in an online university. The company will also directly hire some cabin crew, addressing some concerns (including insufficient applications to fill out the rosters. But those full time FA roles will also be on a four-year contract basis based on the job description. That could be interesting to watch.
A different sort of travel experience
The new carrier is banking both literally and figuratively, on David Neeleman’s reputation. He’s the primary investor in the operation but his role is far more than that. The executive team he’s assembled from other leading airlines is ready to follow his lead, talking up the Neeleman experience in terms of what passengers should expect.
Chief Operating Officer Tom Anderson, formerly of Airbus and Virgin Atlantic, is one of the executives painting that picture. He describes the company’s intentions as “low cost, but without the mean streak. It will be friendly, happy folks delivering a great onboard experience.”
Anderson continues, “We’re going to focus on great fares and a great schedule, but people absolutely should not be thinking that cheap means crappy. We’re absolutely going to have a commitment to a great guest experience. “We’re not going to be putting a TV screen in front of every guest or spending money on that. But we absolutely are going to have folks who engage positively with customers and put our best foot forward every day.”
Nice(r) Fare Families
The basic “Nice” fare options is akin to the basic economy tickets from other carriers. It includes a seat on board, though no advance seat assignment. It includes a smaller carry-on personal item, but not an overhead bin-sized bag. The Nice seat pitch is 29 inches on the E-190 aircraft and 31 inches on the E-195s.
The “Nicer” fare includes an extra legroom seat (33-39 inches on the E-190s, 34-39 inches on the E-195s) as well as both a full-sized carry-on bag and a checked bag. Those are $20 each a la carte. It also includes a drink and snack, as well as double credit in the company’s BreezeBoints program (4% compared to 2% on the Nice fare).
Limited IFE, no connectivity to start
Driven partly by the relatively short flight durations the in-flight experience will be relatively simple. The company will eventually offer streaming TV shows for free, as well as games and an inflight map.
Global Eagle’s Iris digital platform and Airconnect Go IFE platform enable the on-board entertainment, bringing more than 150 shows to the cabin. The company expects to update content quarterly so frequent flyers don’t get bored with the choices.
The system will not be available on day one, but should be fleet-wide by mid-Summer when the initial route network is fully operational.
Snacks and more
On board snacks will start with Utz Original Potato Chips and KIND bars. The company intends to expand the on-board sales options as operations grow.
TSA PreCheck will also be available for passengers from day one. This is a nod to the target passenger base, with a solid mix of leisure and business travelers benefitting from the route network.
Loyalty from the start
The BreezePoints loyalty program launches with the airline, an uncommon move for startups. The proposition is stunningly simple: some percentage of the fare paid gets stored in a travel bank account for future use. And the funds can be used for any purchases at all with the carrier.
We still need to see more details, but this looks to be a not entirely terrible approach to revenue-based loyalty at first glance.
A route network defined by demand – and the Embraer fleet
Neeleman is very familiar with the operating and performance metrics of the Embraer 190 family. He oversaw the introduction of the type at JetBlue and at Azul. And he knows that the trip economics start to fall apart on routes longer than two hours in the sky.
The 39 announced routes range from 330 miles to just over 1,000. This should see nearly every flight operated faster than that 120 minute benchmark. With 95% of the markets facing no non-stop competition the company has an opportunity to pick up existing connecting traffic as well as to induce additional passengers through the convenience of affordable, fast trip times.
Even the shortest of the markets are a 7+ hour drive, making affordable, non-stop flight options compelling for business and leisure travelers alike.
And, make no mistake, the route map is targeted at both leisure and business travelers. Breeze does not aim to simply poach the low-hanging fruit of cheap fares to beaches. Tampa, Charleston, and New Orleans all attract leisure traffic. But they are also business markets to an extent.
So is the fourth base at Norfolk. And the San Antonio routes launching in July will need a lot more than just tourists visiting the Alamo to succeed.
The initial timetables are not daily service in most markets, however, impairing the business traveler potential. How that changes as the services evolve will be interesting to watch.
Changes driven by the A220
The network will expand later this year as A220 deliveries begin. That will change a lot of facets of the operations. Crew layovers will be added thanks to longer stage lengths, and aircraft utilization will increase to help cover the significantly higher costs of the new planes.
In-flight connectivity services will be added on board, owing to different passenger expectations on the longer flights. The A220s will also feature a 2-2 “Nicest” premium cabin seating layout, compared to 2-3 for economy class.
But, for now, expect a relatively simple offering on short hops, keeping costs down while delivering connectivity in key, underserved markets.
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