Word leaked two and a half years ago that JetBlue’s founder Dave Neeleman had registered a new airline company. He denied he was starting a commercial airline. But then during the summer of 2018 his fundraising plans leaked for a startup airline, codenamed Moxy, with $100 million using Airbus A220s.
Airbus A220 Rendering in Breeze Airways Livery, Credit: Breeze Airways
The plan was to offer point-to-point service from smaller airports outside of large cities bypassing hubs, using low costs to offer lower fares. By avoiding connections they planned to “get you there twice as fast for half the price.”
- Lower cost airports like Providence instead of Boston
- Filling up planes with low fares rather than connections
- They plan to offer free Wifi but no seat back television
They plan to fly from secondary airports in the New York (Stewart), DC (Baltimore), Chicago (Gary, Indiana), San Francisco (Oakland, San Jose), and LA (Burbank, Ontario, Orange County) areas. They’ll fly to places like Orlando Sanford and St. Petersburg, Florida.
They want to fly to Mesa, Arizona rather than Phoenix, Concord not Charlotte, and Fort Worth Meacham. Even Cleveland would be served via Burke Lakefront Airport.
The Airbus A220 is generally considered a passenger-friendly aircraft. It’s new and fuel efficient, and can fly transcons and also short transatlantics from the Northeast. A wider fuselage means seats can also be wider than on other Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies.
Now the airline has an official name, Breeze Airways, and has announced plans to fly by the end of this year. They’re currently applying for a government operating certificate and they’re hiring. They’ve re-affirmed plans to launch with non-stop service in markets that do not currently have direct flights.
Neeleman promises ‘the World’s Nicest Airline’ – a great mission and certainly better than the new slogans American Airlines recently trademarked. The name Breeze is apparently meant to be anodyne, the thinking is the name doesn’t matter as long as it’s inoffensive.
A220 deliveries start in April 2021, but operations will begin with 30 leased Embraer E-195 aircraft from Azul with deliveries starting in May 2020. The small Embraer jets won’t have the same passenger qualities that the A220 has. Indeed, the A220s are expected to have a premium cabin (not yet decided whether these will be recliners or flat beds since they can fly to Europe and South America).
Indeed this amounts to two business models, a less passenger friendly experience with an expected 120 seats on board the E-195s for some markets and 118 – 145 seats on the A220s depending on the market (and an expectation they can make the business work at 50% load factors in either case).
One route example where they may fly the E-195 is Idaho Falls to Southern California, overflying Delta and United hubs at Salt Lake City and Denver.
Embraer 195 in Breeze Airways Livery, Credit: Breeze Airways
David Neeleman founded JetBlue after his non-compete from Southwest’s acquisition of Morris Air, where he was CEO, expired. During that non-compete period he was involved in the launch of Canada’s WestJet. A citizen of Brazil as well as the U.S., Neeleman launched Brazilian carrier Azul. He’s also a partner in Star Alliance carrier TAP Air Portugal.
Neeleman certainly has credibility in the industry. He plans to avoid the largest markets, meaning getting gates won’t be a huge issue – though if he wants to break into the largest cities he has a track record of doing that, working closely with Senator Chuck Schumer to obtain space and slots at New York JFK (including with promises of service to upstate New York). The A220 is a great aircraft, new hires will mean building a culture from scratch. I’m excited to see what the new carrier has to offer.