Both Sacramento and Rapid City want to see Breeze Airways planes in the year ahead. Federal grant money could help make that happen.
The initial schedule for Breeze Airways flights between San Francisco and San Bernardino, California (SBD) left a large gap, perfect for adding additional connectivity to the Inland Empire. Now we know at least one more potential route. In a Department of Transportation filing made public this week the San Bernardino Airport asked for $1,000,000 to help provide minimum revenue guarantees to Breeze for flights to Sacramento.
SBD and the Inland Valley Development Agency (IVDA) have partnered with Breeze to bring the first commercial service to SBD in August 2022, recently announced San Francisco International Airport (SFO) service. SBD and Breeze believe that SFO service will be the first of many successful routes; however, in today’s airline environment, it is critical to have a strong incentive program to support service. SBD, IVDA and Breeze have partnered for the new SFO service, and this application is to support nonstop service to SMF as SBD’s second route.
The route is an ideal distance for Breeze’s Embraer E190 family operations. Whether the airline can siphon traffic from nearby Ontario International Airport, however, remains to be seen.
Historically the city pair supported somewhere around 750 passengers daily each way (PDEWs). Southwest Airlines flies Sacramento-Ontario nonstop, with service typically around six times per day. Adding another hundred-ish seats each way won’t really flood the market. But it also could have trouble competing against the more flexible scheduling options offered by Southwest.
Then again, with an average fare north of $100 per Cirium T-100 data, Breeze will be happy to undercut that price point and still try to drive profits.
As for other potential markets from San Bernardino, these are the main markets the region sees:
Reaching out from Rapid City
A second application to the Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) Program seeks $1,000,000 to help support a new route between San Francisco and Rapid City, South Dakota. While that route has operated in the past, United Airlines does not appear to be bringing it back any time soon.
Rapid City also suffers from a lack of nearby alternate airports for passengers. Unlike San Bernardino, the nearest alternates to Rapid City are 3+ hours away.
Boosting Existing Breeze Routes
Two existing Breeze markets are also seeking SCASD funds to help support the operation, though the asks are rather different.
Huntsville, Alabama was one of Breeze’s original destinations, with flights from New Orleans, Tampa, and Charleston. The New Orleans route dropped relatively quickly, and Huntsville has trailed other Breeze markets in terms of passenger loads.
But neither the airline nor the city are ready to give up yet. A new route to Las Vegas is in the offing. The airport is seeking $400,000 in federal funds to help support marketing of that route and other Breeze operations. hat will include $50,000 in travel voucher giveaways for the year ahead, as well as nearly $100,000 worth of local event sponsorships in Breeze’s name.
While Huntsville seems worried the Breeze service might disappear, Richmond, Virginia is far more confident. But that hasn’t stopped local authorities from seeking additional SCASD funding for growth.
Specifically, Richmond wants to see the San Francisco route expand from the planned 2x weekly offering:
Currently, Breeze Airways is scheduled to operate Richmond-San Francisco on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Wednesdays and Saturdays account for 20% of Richmond’s visitors from the Bay Area. The proceeds from this grant would help provide nonstop service to the approximately 80% of Richmond-Bay Area passengers that prefer to fly on other days of the week. These additional days of week will be especially key for business travel that usually takes place during the weekdays.
SCASD grants typically focus on new service at airports. But support for growth in established markets is not unprecedented. Perhaps more curious, however, is why Breeze chose the least business-friendly days for the flights if that market really does exist.
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