TAMPA – After years of planning and rumors in the industry, Breeze Airways (MX), the latest venture from David Neeleman, is starting services today with a maiden flight from Tampa (TPA) to Charleston (CHS).
From Moxy to Breeze
Launched in 2018 under the codename ‘Moxy,’ Neeleman and a group of investors that include Robert Milton and Henri Croupon, who were CEOs in Air Canada and International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC), respectively. Also, Michael Lazarus, a former JetBlue Chairman of the Board joined the team.
Neeleman and his partners believe that there is space for a new competitor in the air travel industry in the United States. They perceived that the consolidation of the industry that occurred in the early 2000s has left small, unattended domestic markets in the United States with the potential to grow.
To fill this void, the so-called Moxy business model proposed to offer point-to-point flights from smaller, secondary airports, bypassing major airline hubs, offering travelers a nice, easier, and faster travel experience.
Meet Breeze Airways
During its route announcement last week, Breeze claimed that 95% of its routes have no existing direct services, providing a foundation for the airline to develop a network of underserved secondary cities that initially span a route network between 16 cities, with TPA, CHS, New Orleans (MSY) and Norfolk (ORF) as focus cities.
Besides the aforementioned cities, among the initial destinations are Akron (CAK) and Columbus (CMH) in Ohio, Bentonville (XNA) in Arkansas, Huntsville (HSV) in Alabama, Louisville (SDF) in Kentucky, Oklahoma City (OKC) and Tulsa (TUL) in Oklahoma, Providence (PVD) in Rhode Island, Pittsburgh (PIT), Richmond (RIC) in Virginia, and San Antonio (SAT) in Texas.
Breeze plans to rely on the Airbus A220-300 as the cornerstone of its fleet, taking advantage of the economics of the jetliner to operate long, thin routes that could be unfeasible to operate with larger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737. While waiting for the delivery of the first of the type, Breeze has opted to source 13 Embraer E190s and E195s from Brazil’s Azul (AD) to start services.
Mark Neely, Embraer Vice President Sales, Americas, said, “It’s great to be part of another Neeleman airline project. Launching Breeze with an Embraer fleet is an endorsement of the value these aircraft bring, allowing Breeze to establish new point-to-point routes in underserved markets, bringing much-needed connectivity, protecting yields, managing demand, and doing so profitably.”
Earlier this month Breeze and Embraer signed a Pool Program Agreement to support a wide range of components for its E190s and E195. The airline selected a seating configuration of 108 passengers for its E190s, while the E195s have 118 seats.
Nicest on the List
The branding of the airline, devised by Gianfranco Beting, goes around the concept of being ‘Seriously Nice’ to its customers, relying on technological resources to optimize costs while providing travelers a seamless experience.
Breeze will offer its customers the option to change or cancel their flights at no cost while offering customers a credit system, aptly named ‘BreezePoints,’ where travelers can log their points for future flights or additional services such as seat selection or extra baggage allowance.
Breeze is set to offer ‘Nice,’ which would be the equivalent to a basic economy fare with no frills, and a ‘Nicer’ fare that gives passengers more flexibility, extra legroom, complimentary drinks and snacks, and carry-on allowance.
The Embraer aircraft will not be equipped with any inflight Wi-Fi. However, plans are to introduce the service in its coming Airbus A220-300s, when passengers will be able to stream multimedia content to their personal electronic devices via Global Eagle’s Iris platform and Airconnect IFE Pro. Plans are to offer over 150 entertainment options.
Gone Like a Breeze!
Just before the press conference previous to the first flight Airways interviewed David Neeleman, where the CEO and founder of Breeze Airways gave us some insights on its fifth airline venture.
When asked about the difference between Breeze and the rest of the airlines created by Neeleman–Morris Air (KN), JetBlue (B6), Azul and Westjet (WS)–the executive commented that “I think there is a lot of learning along the way to build a better airline.”
Neeleman highlighted his experience in Brazil’s Azul, an airline that has not only survived but thrived because of its network, which is 80% of routes not served or underserved by its direct competitors.
Press Conference and Christening
At 08:30 local Tampa time (13:30 GMT), the press conference featuring Breeze Founder and Chief Executive Officer David Neeleman, Tampa Airport Chief Executive Officer Joe Lopano, and Embraer Marketing Vice President Mark Neely and many others introduced the new airline to members of the media.
“What’s different about Breeze? We’re going to start with the foundation that we’re seriously nice. The airline industry, unfortunately, isn’t flawless. You have all kinds of things that can happen to make your operations irregular, either from a maintenance or weather delay.”
“But if we can continue to be nice, the people will be nice to you in return and your job will be a lot more fun. We look for markets that for the most part, have no non-stop service.”
After concluding the press conference, the event transitioned over to the gate, where aviation enthusiasts, media, regular passengers, and Breeze employees gathered to continue with the celebration.
Along with swag and drinks for a toast was a specially designed cake depicting a suitcase and elements of Tampa and Charleston. Neeleman toasted the launch of his fifth airline, raising a glass of orange juice and cutting the cake.
“What’s different about Breeze? We’re going to start with the foundation that we’re seriously nice.” – David Neeleman
Shortly before the flight, the members of the media joined Neeleman on the ramp, where he officially christened the aircraft into Breeze’s fleet marked by the opening of a bottle of champagne.
Onboard Breeze Flight 1
Upon boarding, we got a closer look at the ‘Nice’ interior that Breeze has to offer. The aircraft, an Embraer E195 (N190BZ · MSN 19000660), was originally delivered to Azul in March 2014.
Inside the aircraft is a stark contrast to the colorful blue livery that distinguishes the fleet of Breeze from the pack. The leather seats are in a cream tone, giving the aircraft an ambiance reminiscent of a corporate aircraft.
Beyond the smart cabin look and feel, there is nothing else to add. Every seat has the standard Passenger Service Units (PSU), and a tray table. As mentioned above, These aircraft will not be equipped with Wi-Fi onboard, nor In-Flight Entertainment screens.
Breeze offers ‘Nice’ and ‘Nicer,’ two types of cabin products, based on the seat pitch. ‘Nicer’ seats feature a seat pitch between 33 and 39 inches on its Embraer E190s, and between 34 and 39 inches on the E195s. The ‘Nice’ seats offer 29 inches of pitch on the E190s and 31 inches on the E195s.
After taxiing through the customary water cannon salute, flight MX1 departed TPA at 10:37 local time (15:37 GMT) from runway 19R, making a steep right back to head north to Charleston.
The excitement was present during the flight commanded by Captain Chris Lowes and the First Officer Ashley Morgan. Once we reached our cruise altitude of 31,000 feet, Captain Lowes said through the PA that “I just want to let you know that I am thrilled and honored to be your Captain this morning.”
Aviation enthusiasts walked back and forth through the cabin, taking a look at what Breeze has to offer. David Neeleman said a few words to them. “I have never been onboard a flight with so many aviation photographers, welcome aboard again, and thank you for your support.”
After a short hop that lasted one hour and five minutes, the aircraft landed in Charleston uneventfully. There, Breeze was also holding a ceremony prior to boarding flight Breeze 2 to Hartford (BDL) and back to Tampa via CHS. Louisville (SDF) is set to join the network on May 28.
Featured image and all photos: Kochan Kleps/Airways, unless noted