Today’s post is sponsored by TheAirchive.net. Head to The Airchive for all sorts of avgeekiness including photos and content on airplanes, airlines, airports, timetables, route maps, and more. Today’s topic of discussion, Breeze, may not be covered yet but it will be coming. In the meantime, I do recommend reading this article on CNN written by The Airchive’s founder Chris Sloan about the now-abandoned terminal at New Orleans, one of Breeze’s first bases.
When Breeze launched in May, it started flying VERY quickly after it began selling tickets because it wanted to capture the summer rush. Now, it is changing things up as it tries to fix things operationally and commercially. I pulled apart the schedule to get a better understand of exactly what is changing.
Breeze is largely a four-day-a-week airline. It has no flights on Tuesday/Wednesday, and it has very few on Saturday. Those days were not impacted in these changes. The changes this week hit 13 of the 30 routes that were originally scheduled to fly Thursday/Friday/Sunday/Monday. Those 13 will now operate only 2 of those 4 days. Here’s how the network moves:
This is quite the thinning out of the operation, but there’s more to it than that. Breeze is also extending the block times on nearly all its flights.
Let’s start with Thursday/Sunday where 5 routes will not operate any longer. I’m pulling this chart in from this week’s Cranky Network Weekly to illustrate what I’m talking about.
In the top half of the image, you see an example of an aircraft that has no route changes, but simply extends the block time on each flight by 5 minutes. With so many flights scheduled on an airplane each day, those 5 minute increments add up. That top aircraft starts the day at 7am as it did before, but it now won’t end until 10:55pm whereas before it was done at 9:50pm. It works the other way too. There is one aircraft that used to start the day off in New Orleans at 7am. It now starts at 6am so it can still finish at 10:55pm as planned.
The bottom half of the chart shows how Breeze has consolidated airplanes. The new schedule has it down from scheduling 11 airplanes down to 10. One aircraft now has canceled the morning roundtrip to Richmond (cxl #1), creating a morning spare in Charleston. It then also canceled the evening roundtrip from Charleston to Columbus (cxl #2) so that it could absorb the Pittsburgh – Hartford roundtrip that used to operate off a Norfolk-based airplane. That Norfolk-based airplane will no longer fly to Pittsburgh (cxl #3), and in fact, it’s no longer in the schedule at all.
There’s a New Orleans-based airplane that used to start the day flying to Tulsa, on to San Antonio, and then back before doing a Norfolk turn. Now it will still go to Tulsa but it now sits around for hours waiting to just come back to New Orleans instead of flying to San Antonio (cxl #4). It also has a longer sit in New Orleans before going to Norfolk.
Finally on Thursday/Sunday, one Charleston-based aircraft will not fly the morning roundtrip to Louisville (cxl #5). It will remain a spare in the morning until it flies in the afternoon.
On Friday and Sunday, the cuts are deeper, but overall we again just see Breeze reduce from scheduling 11 aircraft to 10. The schedule is just thinned out further with 8 routes going away. Let’s see if I can rattle these off:
- Norfolk – Columbus will not operate. That airplane used to do an inside turn from Columbus to Hartford, but that flight is now moved to operate off a Charleston-based aircraft.
- Norfolk – Charleston will not operate either. The only remaining flight on this aircraft — a roundtrip from Norfolk to Hartford — will now be moved to a different airplane that used to only fly in the evenings from Norfolk to Pittsburgh, on to Hartford, and back. Those flights have been moved up to morning flights, to make room for the Norfolk-Hartford roundtrip at the end of the day. This removes one aircraft from the system.
- One aircraft used to fly New Orleans – Oklahoma City – San Antonio and back in the mornings. It will now not depart until 10:35am, leaving a morning spare, and will just go to Oklahoma City and come back.
- That same airplane used to use its afternoons to go New Orleans – Northwest Arkansas – San Antonio and back. Again, San Antonio is gone, but this time the airplane just sits around Northwest Arkansas for awhile.
- A Tampa-based airplane used to start the day off with a Huntsville roundtrip. That’s gone, and it will remain a spare until 12:30pm when it resumes its normal flying.
- A Charleston-based aircraft spent its afternoons going to Pittsburgh roundtrip and then Columbus roundtrip. The Pittsburgh roundtrip is gone. Instead the Columbus flight is moved up earlier, then the airplane goes on to Hartford (from point 1 above) and comes back.
- Another Charleston-based airplane used to start the day flying to Huntsville and then on to New Orleans and back before doing an evening Charleston – Providence roundtrip. Those Huntsville flights are gone (that’s route number 7 and 8 if you’re counting), leaving only the evening Providence roundtrip and remaining a spare the rest of the day.
What Does This Mean?
David Neeleman loves to grow quickly, so this is something of a surprise to see the airline take a step back. But is it for commercial or operational reasons? What exactly is going on here?
I reached out to the airline and was told this by spokesperson Gareth Edmondson-Jones:
… it’s also been a challenging summer with weather and delays and, as you recall, we had a very short sales window so while the flights are doing well, they are not full. The decision was made to reduce the 4x frequencies to 2x to have a full time spare aircraft for those occurrences and give the airline more time to build sales.
Alright, so what we have here is a mix of both. There are operational issues, and that was easy to see since the airline extended block times by 5 minutes nearly across the board. This new schedule also creates a whole lot more spare aircraft time. I don’t have current on-time performance or completion factor for the airline, but it must not have been good for them to make these changes and build in this much slack.
At the same time, having decided they were going to cut back operationally, they had to make a conscious decision about which routes to cut. That part must be a commercial decision. If we look at the map, it’s pretty clear what stands out. Huntsville and San Antonio are the big losers here with service being cut in half… all three of their routes from each city will operate 2x weekly instead of 4x. Columbus also took a hit, but not the same extent.
This looks a whole lot like an airline that rushed its start and overreached both operationally and commercially. It is now taking a breath and trying to regroup. Maybe this change will right the ship.