Travel is finally bouncing back following the doldrums of the Covid-19 pandemic, including with the launch of not one, but two new low-cost airlines in the U.S. Avelo Airlines started service out of its West Coast base of Hollywood Burbank Airport in Los Angeles at the end of April, and is ramping up services to nearly a dozen destinations in the western U.S. before setting its sights farther east later this year with a second base in New Haven, Connecticut.
Now, an East Coast upstart is also entering the fray. From JetBlue founder and former CEO David Neelman, Breeze Airways has put tickets on sale starting today after nearly three years in the offing. Fares start at just $39 each way – a nod to the airline’s 39 launch routes among 16 cities. Its first flights will take place on May 27, 2021, between Tampa, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina; and from Charleston to Hartford, Connecticut, with more flights being added to the schedule throughout June and July.
Based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, Breeze Airways takes a point-to-point approach to travel, offering cheap non-stop flights between specific city pairs rather than funneling passengers through hubs and on to their final destinations. That can help keep costs low by minimizing disruptions (one delayed flight can’t throw off the entire network schedule) and allowing the airline to position aircraft more efficiently on less-trafficked routes.
The airline’s first four focus cities will be Tampa, Florida, New Orleans, Louisiana; Charleston, South Carolina; and Norfolk, Virginia. Its other upcoming destinations will include a diverse smattering of smaller cities like Tulsa, Louisville, Oklahoma City, Providence, Hartford, Richmond, and Columbus, Ohio, among others. All 39 routes are expected to be in service by the end of July.
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Low Fares, Few Frills
Fares throughout June and July do indeed start at $39 between various city pairs, but don’t expect too many amenities for that price. The airline’s fare structure is broken down into three tiers, though only two are on sale right now.
The lowest-priced “Nice” fares include the ability to bring a small personal item aboard, such as a laptop bag or a purse. These tickets do not incur change or cancellation fees, and if you do end up changing your plans up to 15 minutes before scheduled departure, you will be issued a flight credit valid for 24 months.
If you want to select your seat in advance, that will start at $10 each way, though on many flights, most advanced seat selections appear to cost closer to $15-$20 for regular Nice places and $30 or more for seats with extra legroom.
A carry-on bag that you can stow in the overhead will cost $20 each way, as will each checked bag up to a total of three per passenger and weighing in at a maximum of 50 pounds each.
Mid-tier “Nicer” fares, which are running at $84 on flights where Nice fares price out at $39, include extra legroom seats, a carry-on bag, one checked bag, a complimentary drink and snack in flight, and priority boarding.
“Nicest” fares should be applicable to the airline’s forthcoming business-class, which will debut aboard Airbus A220 jets that it should begin receiving from the manufacturer later this summer.
A Regional Fleet
Unlike Avelo Airlines, which is filling out its (still limited) fleet with Boeing 737 jets, Breeze Airways is veering toward smaller planes. Those include Embraer 190 and 195 aircraft with just over 108-118 seats in a 2 – 2 layout with extra legroom Nicer seats up front and in the exit rows. Regular seats should be around 18 inches wide and have just 29 inches of pitch, while Nicer seats should have 33-39 inches of pitch, depending on the plane.
The newer, more fuel-efficient Airbus A220 with room for up to 160 passengers will form the backbone of the carrier’s fleet, with 80 on order that will start being delivered in August. These planes will have a small premium cabin up front, and then an economy section laid out in a 2 – 3 pattern. Breeze plans to put them on routes of two hours or more.
While passengers will be able to view streaming entertainment on their own devices on either aircraft type, only the A220s will feature in-flight Wi-Fi.
Breeze Airways will implement a basic loyalty program, too, with passengers earning two percent back as “BreezePoints” on its discounted Nice fares, and four percent back on Nicer fares. BreezePoints will be redeemable for future flights and add-ons such as on-board food and beverages, or checked bag fees.
Although the travel hesitancy of the pandemic appears to be tapering offer and fliers are retaking to the skies in droves, it is still an uncertain time for the aviation industry, let alone an entirely new carrier. However, Breeze Airways aims to capitalize upon a renewed rush to fly by providing novel services among secondary and underserved cities, as well as what were probably some excellent deals on aircraft at a time when other carriers are trimming their fleets.
Breeze Airways’ low-cost model is one we’ve seen before, with attractively low basic fares that include few, if any extras. What is new is that fliers will be able to change and cancel their plans, within reason, and receive future credits with the airline rather than forfeiting their fares.
Perhaps as the larger legacy carriers reshift their focus back to more lucrative business travel, Breeze Airways will find even more room to breathe, and to fly, between leisure destinations within various regions across the U.S.