A lot has changed in the world since David Neeleman first let it slip that he was working on a new airline. And now… things are changing again with an amended filing with the Department of Transportation (DOT). Or, as the airline says:
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the aviation industry like no prior
crisis. The dynamic circumstances have caused Breeze to make adjustments to its plans….
Rolling in the Dough
Since we last looked in on Breeze, the airline has filled its coffers. Breeze says it completed a large round of fundraising that pulled in commitments for $83 million. David will own just shy of 36 percent of the airline, but Peterson Partners will now own more than 20 percent through various funds it has used to invest.
If Peterson sounds familiar, it should. Joel Peterson was there with David and JetBlue from the beginning, and he was the chairman of the board of the airline until earlier this year when he stepped down. It’s no surprise to see him team up with David again.
There are a bunch of other investors buying in as well. Sandlot Opportunity Fund I, LLC owns 14.1 percent and the nebulously-named Texas Family Office owns 5.6 percent. Exactly which family this office is buying for remains unclear, but I think we should just start rumors up that it’s Southwest CEO Gary Kelly. No? Alright, fine.
What we do know is that a) Breeze has a lot of money and b) the money is from US citizens. This isn’t going to turn into a long Virgin America-style fight over ownership. Now it’s just a matter of getting this thing going.
Going Through Phases
On September 11, the FAA accepted Breeze’s application and Phase 2 has been completed. It is now moving on to Phase 3 of the process. It even began pilot and dispatcher training last week.
As we know from South Park, Phase 2 is mysterious, so let’s try to shed some light on what this actually means.
Phase 2 is the formal application. It’s kind of like paying the price of admission. Once your ducks are all in a row, then you can move on to the part where they actually take you seriously. On Phase 3, South Park was wrong. That is very far from profit. It’s actually what they call the “Design Assessment,” making sure that the company is set up properly to be able to run an airline and respond to hazards and risks. Then comes Phase 4 — the “Performance Assessment” — and Phase 5 — “Administrative Functions.” I believe Phase 6 is then “start flying and lose a lot of money,” and only if an airline gets to the vaunted Phase 7 “not lose all our money” does it see profit.
Let’s assume that David’s team will, ahem, breeze through this process. After all, they’ve done it before. But just how will they get to Phase 7? That’s the hardest part, and we’ve been given some clues.
A Settled Fleet Plan
First, Breeze was going to start with A220-300s. Then it decided to start doing charters with Embraer 195s from another of David’s airlines, Azul. At last check, it was still going to start with charters but now it would use Embraer 190s from a different source. Where are we now?
Well the new filing says that both Embraer 195s from Azul and Embraer 190s from Nordic Aviation Capital will both be rolling in starting this month. How many? We don’t exactly know that. What we do know is that the first month of operation is supposed to be March, and it will have 9 aircraft in the fleet, but only 3 in service that month. It then increases to 24 aircraft in the fleet by the end of the first year.
We also know that the A220 deliveries have been pushed off by 6 months with the first arriving in August 2021. That would suggest that there will be 15 Embraers taken before that point which matches the number of Embraer 190s previously discussed from Nordic. Whether more will come after isn’t entirely clear.
We also know that the 190s will have 108 seats onboard — JetBlue puts only 100 on theirs so this is more dense — while the 195s will have 118 seats. And where will these airplanes fly? Ah, that’s the next fun question.
A Southeast Focus on Short-Haul to Start
Breeze’s initial plan was to start up with charter operations, but that is not happening any more. Breeze blames “the disruption in college sports caused by COVID-19” for the strategic shift. Instead, it will start operations in March of 2021 as a scheduled carrier.
Here are the clues we have:
- “Breeze plans to introduce scheduled service on three routes from a southeastern United States airport to four points northeast, and from another airport farther south to four points in the northeast, southeast and the southern plains….”
Breeze filed sample schedules with the DOT but it didn’t include actual cities. Instead what we know is that in the first month, all flights will range between 1h20m and 2h45m in total block time. This has an Allegiant-esque pattern to it with flights operating either twice a week or four times a week but not daily in any market until later on.
It stands to reason that at least one of these southeast points will be in Florida. Breeze has said it wanted to use secondary airports, so… Melbourne? Lakeland? There aren’t a lot of unused secondary airports in Florida anymore, thanks to Allegiant and Frontier. But what will the other airport be that has flights to the northeast only? It should be noted that a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Raleigh/Durham blocks just over 2 hours on a JetBlue Embraer 190, so these short hops can’t go very far from Florida. Jacksonville to New York, however, is 2h15m. Still, it sounds like something further north is in the cards.
Paulding — a proposed secondary airport from Atlanta — would be ideal, but that project was killed by Delta and friends. It’s hard to pinpoint any other obvious choices, but I suppose this could be a non-obvious one.
- “In the subsequent months, Breeze will increase the number of destinations from the two initial airports and open another airport in the southeastern United States with service to points in the midwest, southern plains and northeast….”
Indeed, in future schedules the flight times mostly hover around the 2 hour mark with nothing going over 2h45. Breeze says average stage length will be 750 miles.
- “Beginning in July, Breeze plans to initiate service from another airport in the southeast to points in the midatlantic, northeast and southern plains while increasing the number of destinations from its initial airports….”
This looks like the airline really just wants to fly people east of the Mississippi River down into Florida. It’s heavy leisure. That fits with what we saw from Breeze’s commercial mastermind Lukas Johnson when he was at Allegiant. But maybe I’ll be proven wrong on the “Florida” thing. Or maybe not.
- “In October, Breeze plans to begin service from two additional southeastern airports with service primarily to the northeast….”
By this point, the A220s are in the fleet, so opportunities grow to fly further distances. In fact, Breeze first files something longer than 3 hours in Month 9, which would correlate to November if the plan holds. I should note that it’s WAY longer than 3 hours at between 5 and 6 hours. The times posted indicate it’ll be a trip between Pacific Time and Eastern Time.
After a year, Breeze looks like two airlines. It has all flights either blocked under 3 hours or between 5 and 6 hours. Sorry, Mountain Time Zone, but you appear to be out of luck.
Of course, until the airline launches, we have to take all of this with a grain of salt. But it’s still a whole lot of fun to look for clues.