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.
Running pax up and down the East Coast to Florida, along with a few cross-country flights, but relatively few destinations in the middle of the country? This sounds like a poor man’s JetBlue in terms of dots/lines on the map, but with slightly more southern focus, and with the amenities (e.g., tight seat pitch), secondary airports, and route frequency reminiscent of Allegiant.
I don’t know that this will be successful, but if the price is right there is definitely a sizeable market for flying people to cheap beach vacation destinations, especially less popular ones that have cheaper hotels, like Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, etc… With that kind of a leisure focus and most East Coast flights under 750 miles (roughly a day’s drive), it sounds like Breeze is taking a page out of Allegiant’s book and hoping its fares will be low enough to get vacationing families on a budget to fly instead of dealing with the traffic on the drive down I-95.
It’s interesting because for years JetBlue has said that the 190s aren’t economical on stage lengths over 750 miles. Interesting to see that be the exact cut off for Breeze’s stage length on theirs.
Perhaps they are eyeing Charlotte’s secondary airport USA at Concorde? Allegiant fly from there and the airport has designs on growing.
I doubt Breeze will do it, as doesn’t seem to fit with their plans, but while we’re talking secondary airports in the Southeast I’m a little surprised that a ULCC hasn’t tried to do flights from an airport in the Atlanta metro area that isn’t ATL. I know Allegiant flies into CHA (Chattanooga) some, and there are a few flights from places like Columbus and Macon, but all of those are ~2 hours from ATL, and highway traffic in the Atlanta metro area is notoriously bad for the Southeast… Seems like there might be an opportunity for an airline to offer flights from a secondary airport that is a bit closer to the center of the Atlanta metro area (not 2 hours away), and perhaps on the other side of the city than ATL, like the way that Flint airport is used for the Detroit metro.
I’m not super familiar with the ATL metro area or other airports there, but from a quick search, perhaps PDK (DeKalb-Peachtree) would fit the bill. It has the runway length, it’s on the other side of the metro area compared to ATL, and it’s fairly close to downtown and places like Buckhead.
@Killroy: having lived in Atlanta, and actually quite near DeKalb (affectionally known as “Charlie Brown”), I can tell you that Delta has thwarted any and all efforts to opening that up to commercial flights.
Correct. There are no viable near-ATL commercial airports and Delta has worked hard to ensure that. Closest is AHN, which is within the PSA (primary statistical area) but not terribly accessible.
Thanks for the info.
That makes sense, as I know Delta really likes to throw its weight around in its communities, such when it threw a tantrum and ended its 20-year sponsorship of the Fox Theatre after the venue dared to host a performance to celebrate Qatar’s new route… The inaugural arrival for which wasn’t able to disembark via a jetway, as the only A380-capable gate was coincidentally occupied by a much smaller Delta plane. Or when Delta’s sponsorship of a gay pride parade in Seattle was conditional upon Alaska employees not being able to march with Alaska branding, references, or uniforms.
Is this some kind of “Half-Way to April 1st” post? Like “Breeze is back, shifting, ever so slightly, but hear us out!
Surely, someone has plans ready to file with DOT for an airline: “Pending…Pending Airways. “WE ARE…Pending!”
Halfway to April Fool’s would be saying California Pacific Air is coming back!
Wwell Breeze may have a fresh pool of talent at the ready now that AA & UA will be cutting pilots.
Breeze isn’t paying much. Its scale is quite modest. Plus, you don’t necessarily want legacy airline pilots at a startup. They have a pretty set view of what an airline “ought to be” including what they ought to get paid. Whereas if you hire very good regional airline pilots, they see it as a step up and have far fewer toxic preconceptions.
Where have they posted their pay scale? I haven’t seen that anywhere.
Data in the T-1 in that filing suggests that one of the two initial airports will be in the Central time zone. That’s an interesting twist to the route map IMO.
It’s worth noting that the Central Time Zone includes the western half of the FL panhandle (including Panama City, FL), all of Alabama, and the western ~2/3 of TN. It definitely does make things a little more interesting, however, and opens up the opportunity for expansion down the road up the western part of the Southeast and up the east side of the Mississippi River into the Midwest.
“It’s worth noting that the Central Time Zone includes the western half of the FL panhandle (including Panama City, FL), all of Alabama, and the western ~2/3 of TN.”
That bit on FL crossing time zones is interesting as it’s the only state to do so. On the aviation side of this, Breeze could serve the culf beaches.
SEAN – The only state that has multiple time zones? There are plenty of others, actually.
Idaho – MT with the panhandle in PT Oregon – PT and MT in the eastern part Both Dakotas, Kansas, Texas have the western part in MT and the eastern in CT Indiana – Northwest and Southwest corners are in CT, rest in ET Kentucky and Tennessee – Western half in CT, eastern half in ET
Sorry – had to run off real quick & wasn’t able to complete my intended comment. You are correct, but there are a few variances such as IN not recognizing daylight savings in most of the state & in FL, during a presidential election (2004) I believe it was noted the state was called for Bush on the news. However it was reported later that the panhandle was still voting at the time & that mistake was made known. And therefore the news sources I drew my initial comment from was wrong.
SEAN – IN actually now does do daylight saving time. That changed maybe 10 or 15 years ago? Can’t remember exactly. AZ doesn’t do DST, except for the Navajo nation which does. The only other state without DST is Hawai’i.
Cranky hit on a lot of the exceptions, but I would add that the westernmost part of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, which is on Central Time (rest of MI is on Eastern time). Fun fact: Detroit is closer to Washington, DC, than it is to parts of the Upper Peninsula.
Oh, and we’re not even throwing daylight savings time into the mix, as some states and areas don’t observe that.
I didn’t mean to start a firestorm. It’s times like this you realize just how stupid the news can be as I was drawing conclusions as noted above from errors made from presidential race coverage on all the TV networks.
No worries, not a big deal at all.
I’m not from the U.P. or even Michigan, but Yoopers who live there tend to take it a little personally when the Upper Peninsula gets left off the map. Great place to visit if you’re into the outdoors, especially if you’re trying to escape the heat in the summer; Picture Rocks National Lakeshore is gorgeous and offers some great boating, kayaking, hiking, and more. Plus… pasties (as in the food) are great.
Are the casinos open in Biloxi? We used to see a LOT of charter (and DOT 380) flights out of there. Heck, even Reno Air had a plane based there for a while.
Breeze’s model is basically about trying to use smaller gauge aircraft to compete esp. in leisure markets initially, a strategy that is counter to what the ultra low cost carriers do to push down unit cost.
While we don’t know Breeze’s markets and pricing, it is very possible they can find markets where an efficient smaller mainline aircraft like the A220-300 (their intended eventual aircraft) can make markets work that other airlines are not.
Breeze appears to want to pick off point to point markets that other carriers are not willing to try to defend even if most small or medium-sized markets proxy larger markets.
AA AS UA and WN are not currently (at least) pursuing a 100 seat aircraft while B6 and DL are so aircraft size or type is not really an advantage.
AA AS and UA could use smaller regional jets to compete with Breeze if they choose to enter those markets or any carrier could use larger aircraft or B6 and DL could specifically use the A220, bringing cost differences down predominantly to labor – just as exists between carriers today. Aircraft specific costs between airlines are dependent mainly on financing and maintenance.
I’m not sure that, in this age of excess capacity in the industry, that any carrier will let a new entrant grow without challenging their growth.
It really is quite stunning that there are investors that are willing to throw money into new airlines when existing airlines are being propped up by the federal government.
This will be one of the most interesting new airline launches in commercial aviation history.
btw, Charlie Brown airport refers to Fulton County airport, FTY, which is just outside Atlanta’s perimeter and off of I-20. PDK is inside the perimeter and just NE of downtown. Neither airport handles commercial air traffic and yet PDK is actually the 2nd busiest airport in Georgia after ATL.
Speaking of the A-220, I see Delta took delivery of 10 last month (including 4 A220-300s). And I see they have bungled the training and airplanes are being placed into storage. Do you think they will lease them to Breeze, as a way to offset their losses?
Miss – Funny you mention that. Some of the rumors out there aren’t right, but Delta gave me this statement last night. It will be only 9 aircraft grounded, and it sounds like they expect them back in the air by year-end.
“Based on adjustments we’ve made to our network and pilot staffing plan due to the impact of the pandemic and the time it takes to retrain pilots to new fleet types, we will temporarily park a portion of our Airbus A220-100 aircraft. There will be no impact to customers or changes to our current network schedule as we will shift A220 flying to other aircraft.”
Great research there, Cranky Flier. 9 out of 10 ain’t bad. I was thinking Delta might pay to have the planes’ interiors redone to Breeze’s specs and, of course, the exteriors painted in Breeze’s livery. I mention this because that’s what Southwest did for Delta with the 88 717s Southwest allowed Delta to use. I believe Southwest spent over a million per plane. Of course, the irony is that Delta used the 717 to fly to Love Field. So one could argue that Southwest allowed Delta to use both the plane and the gate in Dallas. You might be a little young for this, but Delta used to have a huge hub operation at DFW, but American ran them out. Delta skulked out of town then, but is willing to sue for just one gate now. My, how the times have changed. Have a great weekend, Mr. Cranky Flier!
A great candidate for Florida service would be UST, Northeast Florida St Augustine regional airport.
It had several years of Frontier service to TTN, IAD, PHL and ORD at various times that at least anecdotally did very well. Frontier pulled out to significantly expand service at JAX in mid 2018. SkyBus also did really well there (again anecdotally) but had service to multiple destinations at one point.
F9 flew 180 px A320s and SkyBus had dense 319s. Breeze’s planes around the 100-130 px capacity would offer more flexibility.
UST is a great secondary airport that benefits both from a large catchment area and significant tourist traffic. The airport reports 4.4 million people are within a 2 hour drive of the airport. Downtown Jacksonville is 35 miles north, Daytona is 60 miles south, Gainesville 80 miles west and even Orlando is 115 miles away. Furthermore they have had some success with ULCCs previously and is one of the few Florida secondary airports that doesn’t already have service from Allegiant or Southwest. Hopefully their airport director has already sent David Neeleman multiple fruit baskets!
(Disclosure – Bill from DC aka Cranky Gazelle has a beach house in St Augustine. But the information presented is still extremely valid!)
Oh yeah, the 750 nm stage length includes MEM, SDF, CVG, CMH, IND, PIT and the three DC area airports. Expand it to 800 miles and you include CLE/CAK, STL and PHL (including possible secondary airports ILG, TTN and ACY). Lots of choices!
Bill – The 750 is just an average stage length so there’s nothing saying it can’t go up to 800!