Travelers hoping to check out new budget airline Breeze Airways have had limited options since the budget airline debuted last year.
The startup from the founder of JetBlue only offers flights in pockets of the country, mostly serving smaller airports with short, infrequent flights. The airline’s biggest airport in terms of daily flights: Charleston, South Carolina.
Breeze’s route map is about to change dramatically, with the addition of its first destinations in the western U.S. and its first cross-country flights. In a major expansion, the airline on Tuesday said it is adding flights in 10 new cities including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nashville and Jacksonville, Florida, and boosting service in others, including Charleston and Hartford, Connecticut.
In all, Breeze is adding 35 routes between May and August, nearly doubling its flight lineup. The airline will offer 77 routes in 28 cities in 18 states when all the new flights are in place by early August. By the end of the year, the airline’s fleet will more than double, from 13 planes to 30.
The additions include the airline’s first long flights, including Providence-Los Angeles, Syracuse-Las Vegas and Charleston-San Francisco. The airline will also become the first commercial airline to fly out of San Bernardino International Airport, east of Los Angeles.
Like fellow newcomer Avelo Airlines and budget airline pioneer Allegiant, Breeze zeroes in on nonstop routes other airlines don’t serve.
“We generally always – 95% of the time – try and find routes where there’s people flying or that people would fly if the fares were better and the service was more convenient,” Breeze founder and CEO David Neeleman said in an interview.
He cited Syracuse, New York, Jacksonville and Fort Myers, Florida, and Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia, which are getting new flights to Las Vegas.
“Those are all great cities but there’s no nonstop service to Las Vegas,” he said.
Of the 35 new routes, just three have nonstop service on other airlines, most notably Nashville-Hartford, which Southwest Airlines serves.
As it does now, Breeze will only offer flights a few days a week on most of the routes instead of daily service like major airlines, meaning passengers must have flexible travel dates. And a handful of the new routes, including Los Angeles-Providence, are seasonal.
‘The plane is freakin’ amazing’: Breeze CEO on airline’s new, bigger jets
Breeze’s long-planned expansion is tied to the arrival of new planes with longer range, Airbus A220s. The airline has 80 new A220s on order, 13 of which are arriving this year.
Neeleman calls the plane, which Delta and JetBlue also fly, a game-changer and the most technologically advanced commercial plane on the market. Taking a swipe at major airlines like American and Southwest, he said it is a “much more comfortable ride” than the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, the industry’s workhorses for domestic flights.
“The plane’s freakin’ amazing,” he said “It’s got a wide seat. You can go first class for a great price. The windows are bigger.”
Breeze’s A220s will have 126 seats, at least initially. That compares with between 108 and 118 on the 13 Embraer regional jets it currently flies and will continue to use on shorter flights.
Unlike Breeze’s smaller jets, they will offer in-seat power and USB ports, with Wi-Fi planned for this fall.
The biggest change passengers who have flown Breeze will notice: the addition of first-class seats. Breeze’s A220s will debut with 36 first-class seats. (The Embraer jets have no first-class seats.) The fares will generally be about 50% more than Breeze’s standard economy fares, Neeleman said, though the initial premium on Breeze’s new coast-to-coast flights is 100%. The first class tickets come with two free checked bags, a carry-on bag and a drink and a snack. (Breeze doesn’t yet serve alcohol but plans to add it this spring.)
“You don’t climb on too many planes that have 36 first-class seats,” he said.
As with flights that don’t perform, Breeze will ditch that seating plan if travelers don’t book first-class seats in sufficient numbers, Neeleman said.
“If I can get enough people to pay me 50% more for the fare, I’ll keep it,” he said. “If I can’t then I’m going to put more coach seats in….Our customers will decide that.”
Four flights in two days: What it’s like to fly the new budget airline Breeze Airways
What cities does Breeze Airways fly to?
Breeze is introducing flights to and from 10 new cities and boosting service in several existing markets.
The new cities: Las Vegas; Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Bernadino, California; Nashville; Savannah, Georgia; Syracuse, New York; and Jacksonville, Fort Myers and Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida.
The full list of new routes is on the airline’s website.
A snapshot of the new routes, including start date and introductory one-way fares. Tickets must be purchased by March 11 for travel by Aug. 31. (Breeze’s schedule is open for flights only through Sept 6.) Dates around the July 4th holiday are blacked out.
Breeze uses an a la carte pricing model, with bargain fares and extra charges for seat assignments, carry-on and checked bags and boarding pass printing at the airport.
Las Vegas to and from:
► Richmond, Virginia: June 9, $99
► Syracuse, New York: June 10, $99
►Fort Myers, Florida: June 11, $99
►Charleston, South Carolina: Aug. 5, $99
►Jacksonville, Florida: Aug. 5, $99
►Norfolk, Virginia: Aug. 4, $99
►Huntsville, Alabama: Aug. 4, $99
San Francisco to and from:
►Richmond, Virginia: May 25, $99
►Charleston, South Carolina: May 26, $99
►Louisville, Kentucky: May 27, $99
►San Bernardino, Aug. 4, $39
Los Angeles to and from:
►Providence, Rhode Island: June 29, $99
►Norfolk, Virginia: June 30, $99
►Savannah, Georgia: July 1, $99
Jacksonville, Florida to and from:
►Richmond, Virginia: May 19, $49.
►Columbus, Ohio: May 27, $49
►New Orleans: May 27, $49
►Providence, Rhode Island: May 27, $59
►Norfolk, Virginia: May 27, $49
►Hartford, Connecticut: June 3, $59
►Las Vegas: Aug 5, $99