Breeze Sets Its Sights On Hartford for A220 Flying

Breeze

Nothing has been announced, but it won’t be long until Breeze finally releases its first A220-specific routes. Though I don’t usually like the speculate, sometimes the tea leaves make things pretty easy, and this is one of those times. It’s looking increasingly-likely that Hartford will be one of the first bases of operations for Breeze’s long-haul A220 flying. Why? I’m glad you asked. Let’s walk through it.

Hartford was one of the initial destinations for Breeze, and one of the only ones even today in the northeast US. It has maintained a fairly consistent schedule since launch last summer with less-than-daily service to four cities: Charleston (SC), Columbus, Norfolk, and Pittsburgh.

These routes have all been operated by Embraer 190/195 aircraft, of course, since that’s all Breeze has operated to date. But when Breeze starts flying the A220 in May, it will not take long to move into Hartford. In fact, all Hartford flights will be operated by the A220 from June with all going 3x weekly except for Charleston which will operate 1x daily.

Breeze’s initial A220 rollout is all about doing test runs. It is putting the airplanes only on short-haul routes that already exist in the network on Embraers today. This will help pilots get trained and will allow existing stations to get used to the A220. This is not the reason for ordering those airplanes, however. We know that Breeze’s goal is to fly the airplanes on longer-haul routes where there is more demand and need for the more premium product that sits on the A220. This isn’t announced yet, but Breeze has been tipping its hand.

Yes, seeing that all Hartford flights will be operated by the A220 this summer is one thing, but it’s much more than that.

Recently, Breeze announced that Hartford would become the airline’s 5th base, and the first since the initial line-up of Charleston (SC), New Orleans, Norfolk, and Tampa was launched last year. There are scant details other than the ones that politicians care about… 200 jobs and all that. But we do know that there will be 8 new routes launched. We just don’t know what they are yet. All we know is they will be announced in a “matter of weeks.”

Though these could be short-haul routes, that seems highly unlikely. And here’s a chart to explain why.

2019 PDEW in Unserved Domestic Markets Over 2,000 miles

This chart above looks at all the routes within the Continental US of more than 2,000 miles that had no service in 2019 and had more than 100 passengers daily each way. Ok, that’s not entirely true. Hartford – LA had service, but I included that one in here for comparison purposes.

The top two markets are not a surprise in the least. After all, Washington/National has few slots that can serve distances over 1,250 miles and while San Diego used to have one, that was eventually moved up to LA where American decided it would be put to better use. LaGuardia can only serve LA and Phoenix on Saturdays due to rules at the airport. Those flights now exist on Spirit, but again, only one day a week. So those really should be ignored due to restrictions.

Beyond those, Hartford shows up a lot on this list. This was pulled using 2019 data, but since that time, JetBlue has expanded with Vegas and San Francisco 3-4x weekly in addition to Los Angeles anywhere from 4x to weekly to 1x daily depending upon the month. JetBlue sees some opportunity, and it probably thinks that these markets will really work on an A220… and I’m betting Breeze thinks the same.

You can easily imagine Breeze putting an A220 on routes like Hartford – Oakland, Ontario, or Phoenix/Mesa since David Neeleman loves secondary airports that are cheaper. If he can convince people to use those as alternate routes, that might work out… unless JetBlue is flying to the primary airports. Or maybe the team at Breeze will convince David that primary airports might be more useful.

Either way, Hartford is one of those markets that has some decent demand but just not enough to fill the airplanes that normally fly across the country. The A220 was billed as the gamechanger having good economics with fewer seats and long range. This is the kind of market that you’d expect Breeze to target.

How could Breeze get to 8 routes? It probably can’t if it’s just looking over 2,000 miles, but I’m sure that’s not the case. Throw in some Florida flying and connections to other bases and it’s easy to fill that roster up.

The risk, of course, is that JetBlue seems to have designs on these markets as well. And JetBlue also has the A220, which gives it much closer to a level playing field.

I should be clear. I don’t expect Hartford to be the only base to get these airplanes early. Charleston and Tampa have to be on the list as well, but those are existing bases where you’d expect to see the growth. Hartford would be something new, but the tea leaves are all pointing in the right direction.

41 comments on “Breeze Sets Its Sights On Hartford for A220 Flying

    1. Avelo could potentially launch transcon flights once New Haven’s runway is extended in the next few years.

      1. If they have to wait a couple years, that could put them at a serious disadvantage in this game, particularly if JetBlue expands their long-haul offering when their A220s come on line. Breeze and JetBlue would have a couple years to develop markets. Breeze would be behind the proverbial 8-ball playing catch up, if they decide it is worth it.

    2. SubwayNut – Definitely can’t do it today. In the future, probably, but even then westbound in the winter will be tough.

      1. How long will the runway become when it’s lengthened? I’m surprised that they were able to get that in since both ends of the runway are residential neighborhoods.

    3. Avelo plans flights to cities in the mid-west to be announced this month. Hoping for a HVN-MDW-BUR flight. That would serve two very large O&D markets with one flight and connect the two base cities.

  1. I also see Breeze as the likely successor at BDL and PVD to Norwegian’s transatlantic flights. The A220 as Breeze configures it seems like it would be the ideal aircraft with the range for a flight to Europe which is essentially the same distance as a BDL/PVD-LAX transcon flight. Breeze has a product which would draw premium economy travelers away from Boston or NYC on the convenience while being an efficient enough plane to compete with fares in the back. For any TATL to be successful however, Breeze needs to build an interline agreement on the European side which Norwegian in its many forms never efficiently leveraged.

  2. Based on the cities on this list, it seems like a lot of this demand is being generated from government/military travelers, hence the presence of JAX, ORF, SEA, and SAN. The challenge is that you have to be part of the GSA City Pairs Program to realistically get any of those travelers. Interestingly enough, it looks like a representative from Breeze attended a January 20th pre-solicitation meeting for the FY23 (Oct 2022-Sep 2023) bidding. If they can offer nonstop flights on key government routes (e.g. JAX/ORF to SAN & LAX) that would certainly help to have some consistent revenue.

  3. I’d like to point out that my local airport, SAN, shows up on the graph four times: DCA-SAN, PIT-SAN, BDL-SAN, JAX-SAN. The City of San Diego is the EIGHTH most populous U.S. city, and is the 17th largest MSA (larger than hubs such as Denver, Charlotte, and Salt Lake City). Of course, SAN is a challenge as southwestern corner city, so not really ideal as a transit hub. But I certainly see SAN as an opportunity that has not yet been exploited. Pre-COVID, AS was trying to build it up as a focus city.

    I could see Breeze service doing quite well on BDL-SAN, starting at 3x or 4x weekly. Not sure about BDL-PHX given that AA would probably defend its PHX hub against a new entrant.

    1. Agree on all. And, I’d like to add that BDL-PHX would face WN as well as AA – so that’s likely to be a pretty low yield route. BDL-SAN has more potential. In fact, BDL could be a goldmine for Breeze: a fairly affluent market in the middle of a populous region, yet one that’s often overlooked. For the midwest, I’d strongly suggest that they look at MKE. While not as affluent as BDL it’s still affluent enough and suffers many of the same neglect that BDL does – being so close to ORD.

      Now, what kind of base Breeze will put on the West Coast is quite unclear to me. They’ll need one, simply having service to LAX or SAN or SFO isn’t enough. To fill in the map, they need some critical mass in this part of the country. Which could be tough, given that JetBlue is already grappling with the same issue and you have the big 3 plus AS and WN sucking up much of the oxygen.

      1. Agreed that Breeze will need a stronger West Coast presence, rather than just dots on the map. Perhaps a base at SLC, since they are based in Utah??

        1. IMO too much of a fortress hub. DL also has 220s and would respond on all but the tiniest routes.

          I’m not saying they have to find their own HVN but I think it would behoove them to create new markets instead of further invading the big boys turf. That’s what they SAID they were going to do, even though we haven’t seen much evidence of that yet.

          1. Bill, you are probably correct. I would suspect that Mr. Neeleman would like to have some amount of presence in SLC, but perhaps not a hub to go up against DL.

        2. Great question regarding where to put a base. For some reason, Sacramento comes to mind. Big enough market for O&D traffic, centrally located along the West Coast, and not dominated by any one airline. The rest of the airports are already pretty competitive. Another market that could use service from Breeze (but which is likely too small for a base) is Fresno. It’s actually the fastest growing city in CA but it doesn’t have a ton of service. Admittedly, there aren’t a lot of corporate accounts around Fresno – but that could be a good point to point market.

          1. I could see ONT as well, even OAK if they get the gate space. OAK is more of a WN stronghold, but outside of Hawaii, WN doesn’t do much longer stuff out of OAK.

  4. This allegedly fresh Breeze is starting to feel like the same old hot air. They breathlessly talked about new city pairs and stimulating demand. Then it seemed like 75-80% of their initial routes were already served.

    But wait for the A220s, those will be the real breath of fresh air for Breeze, right? Not really if the plan is just to draft off B6 at BDL who, as luck would have it, also has 220s plus a significant amount of brand and frequent flyer loyalty in the same region.

    Oh well, they can always fill them up flying to Florida at microscopic yields. Of course B6 can too. More and more it seems that Breeze is tailor made to eventually be acquired by B6. Which might have been the plan all along.

    Regardless, there still isn’t much of anything new here. Avelo might be having ts fair share of swings and misses but at least they are actually trying to develop new markets and new routes.

    1. Wow!! Great observation! The thought of JetBlue acquiring any airline has never crossed my mind because, well, they’ve just never done it before! Great speculation and I think you’re right. I worked for JetBlue as a FA in their early years 2000-2006. It’s been amazing to see their growth. From a tiny airline with 2 gates at terminal 6 at JFK to now, is pretty incredible. To your point, they are at that stage in their game where acquisitions of smaller airlines (avelo and breeze) could benefit them. I also foresee JetBlue operating European flights out of northeast underserved cities such as BDL PVD where there is a need and and the markets are affluent enough to support.

  5. Anyone know why such few airlines are targeting Sacramento (SMF) in their expansion plans? Seems like a total hidden gem. Here are a few points:

    – Greater Sac has 2.4M people, fifth largest metro area in the state.
    – TONS of people have moved from the Bay area (SF/Oakland) to Sacramento during COVID to get more affordable homes.
    – SFO and Oakland airports are over two hours away if traffic is good. That’s painful considering a 4 hour vehicular round trip just to avoid a one-stop flight from SMF.
    – From Sacramento, you can be in world class Lake Tahoe in 1.5 hr (car), and Napa Valley wineries in ~1 hr for outskirts, 1.25 hrs to core. Equidistant from SFO.
    – Economy is trucking along with residential construction, growing tech sector (Intel has 7K here), and huge government ops being location of free spending California state gov. Also agricultural heartland region (south) of California.

    The air service is severely lacking outside of western states. Delta used to fly to Detroit but they stopped that since COVID onset. There are two flights a day to New York, not bad. I think 2 a day to Chicago. But only 1 a day to Atlanta. NOTHING – zilch – to booming Florida. Nothing to Boston from what I recall.

    Just seems like a glowing opportunity for a Breeze, even Avelo, Spirit (DTW), etc to put some longer haul flights out of SMF and take over the airport. Southwest is strong but it’s a western focus. Even LA, almost all carriers fly RJs from SMF, which I always try to avoid, except for Southwest.

    1. SMF has connections over all the majors’ hubs to pretty much anywhere in the US, and it appears that that covers the demand well enough. Is there the possibility for market stimulation? Maybe, but the Sacramento metro area has a limited number of attractions and Lake Tahoe is closer to RNO than to SMF. Napa/Sonoma could drive some traffic, but talking up Yosemite hasn’t helped FAT that much and the distances are even longer to SFO/OAK/SJC – people just get set in their ways.

      And other than for the theme parks in Orlando, why would Californians want to go to Florida other than VFR or business? (And I say this as a former Californian.) California has its own beaches, Mexico is nearby (with nonstop service from SMF), and there’s always Hawaii, which Southwest serves non-stop from Smurf.

      1. Thanks for the feedback.

        Some of the trans-con flights from SMF are red-eyes, which sucks. BTW I looked at the Delta sched. for ATL in future and there are 3 flights a day; I had said one previously, I was either wrong or they are just expanding in the future.

        As for Florida, hmm, I would disagree in some regard. Miami is a huge attraction in and of itself – I know someone going there for a girls weekend and they were dismayed/shocked at lack of no direct air service. Then you have Orlando with the theme parks. Tampa is booming on the corporate growth front (lots of financial services biz setting up shop). Miami is also as you know a biz hub for the Americas and one I wish I could reach on a direct flight – and not a red eye, preferably something with ~ 6AM departure from SMF.

        Yes certainly Hawaii services from SMF have picked up. There is even one flight a week to random Kona! Also, one a week (SWA) to Cabo San Lucas.

        I think SMF has a marketing opportunity for Tahoe. I know as you said Reno is closer, but if you are not on the west coast and want to get to Tahoe, I think it would be preferable to have a direct flight into SMF as opposed to Reno (also turbulent as heck flying into there in winter). I would imagine Reno flights and car rentals are very expensive relative to SMF rates.

        One final note: I’m very partial/biased to favor direct flights. For some reason I just hate one stops and hubs. So when I do need to get somewhere direct and fast, I do tend to drive to SFO. But, my options are somewhat restrained because any departure from SFO between say 6-8AM is a no go for me (unless I want to wake at 3AM), unless I’m willing to get a SFO airport hotel night before, which then adds up $ with gas costs.

        Cheers

        1. I gotta say M, that’s pretty odd to prefer a 2-hour stressful drive each way to SFO for a nonstop instead of an easy 1-hour connection in Denver??…

          1. Ah, yeah, I can understand your point, but for example the stop in Denver itself probably takes ~ 2 hours or so. So the time versus the drive is a wash. And then whenever you have the stopovers, you introduce some risk regarding flight delays, and on very rare occasion baggage issues though when I’m traveling for short biz trips I will just go with carry-ons.

            I will say though I have abnormal quirks regarding picking flights. Eg I’m extremely partial to weather/turbulence forecasts. Don’t like flying into rocky mountain airports mostly in winter; don’t like flying over the plains/midwest on late afternoon/evening flights in spring because of storms (I’ve been in an extreme turbulence situation and it was one of the worst minutes of my life); don’t fly over tornado alley in torando season etc.

            I’m a little bit insane in that regard so I might not have a “normal’ perspective hence my views could naturally be biased!

            thx

            1. It’s ok, we avgeeks are all a little insane, amiright?

  6. It’s kind of funny to see all this attention on Bradley. The two largest cities in its catchment area, Hartford and Springfield are either stagnant or shrinking and it’s not a great area for tourism. But, it looks like there is an opportunity and the A-220 might be the biggest plane to serve this areal

    1. Still a bit of $$$ in CT, and BDL is the only airport in the state with the runway length needed for medium/longer hauls. The established carriers are fighting for the BOS/WAS/NYC’s of the Northeast and BDL is really the last airport outside of PVD ripe for serious development.

      1. Not sure it has enough people in its catchment area (though I’d wager its catchment area in terms of square miles is one of the largest around for similarly sized airports in the Northeast or East Coast), but it seems like fares are PWM (Portland, ME) tend to be a bit high, and there aren’t a ton of other options for flights to/from “northern” (north of Mass state line) New England. It would be interesting to see a few flights a week on a route or two from PWM, maybe an “out and back” from one of the warm destinations that Breeze serves to PWM.

        Not sure what the fares/competition is like, but GRR would be another idea, if not for a base, at least for a few routes… It has the population base and money, and people in Michigan think nothing of traveling 70 or 100 miles to the airport if they have to. GRR is 3+ hours from MDW, and while people do drive the 2+ hours to DTW when they absolutely have to, it can be a chore.

        With the right routes GRR (or LAN, if you wanted to do that, instead, though it’s closer to DTW) could potentially draw pax from most of the western 2/3 of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It’s also worth noting that Michigan’s population is heavily weighted towards the southern areas of the LP, as only a relatively small proportion of Michigan’s population lives much north of a line drawn roughly between the extreme northern suburbs of Grand Rapids & the northern ‘burbs of Flint.

        1. The two closest counties (Hartford, CT and Hampden, MA) to Bradley have a population that is close to the population of the entire state of Maine. Plus Maine has two airports of some size, Portland and Bangor. Though tourism in Maine is much bigger than it is in Connecticut and WMass.

          1. I get that that Maine (especially north of L-A, Maine) don’t have a ton of people, and with PWM’s location I wouldn’t suggest it as a hub. Could Breeze profitably fill a few flights a week from PWM (or even PSM, in Portsmouth, NH, if one really wanted to try something a bit unusual) to a warm/sunny destination or two that it’s already serving from BDL?

            That would allow for a single plane to potentially be used for BDL-[sunny dest]-PWM-[sunny dest]-BDL, without necessarily having to leave plane overnight in PWM, and PWM or PSM are far enough away from BDL that they would wouldn’t cannibalize flights to the same destinations from BDL.

            Just a crazy idea, as I don’t have the data to argue much for/against it beyond that, but fun to think aloud.

      2. When I think of $$$ and Connecticut, it’s Fairfield County and more specifically the area that is closer to NYC airports as opposed to Bradley. Neither Hartford or Springfield are exactly wealthy, though they do have a few wealthy suburbs.

        1. Agreed that Fairfield County is where the big money in CT is normally though of; lots of hedge funds and some corporate offices in places like Greenwich and Stamford.

          Years ago, Hartford itself was the 2nd poorest city in the nation, and CT was the 2nd richest state, in terms of average incomes. I’m sure that’s changed, but it’s the suburbs and not the city that would probably provide the pax.

          There are some solid upper middle-class or better population groups in the Hartford suburbs, especially between Hartford itself and BDL, and BDL isn’t that far from the Berkshires, to the extent that those are a destination or origin for people.

          1. I grew up in Massachusetts, so I do have an idea of the lay of the land there. I would think of Albany as the airport closest to the Berkshires, but Bradley would work as well. I usually think of the Berkshires as a vacation spot for New Yorkers who would drive up the Taconic or 91 to get there or Bostonians who would take the Pike as opposed to flyers. But, if an airline can make long haul flights work out of Bradley, more power to them.

            1. Agreed. I don’t know much about the Berkshires, but (like many of the Hudson Valley & Catskill resorts) I get the sense that their heyday was before inexpensive air travel allowed those in NYC or Boston to easily travel to more far-flung destinations and vacation homes.

              That said, I think you and I are largely on the same page. I largely don’t see a huge long-haul market from BDL, but I can see it supporting flights to a few more destinations out West and perhaps a few more flights to sun/beach destinations.

              The challenge with BDL is always going to be that BOS and the NYC airports are a ~3-hour drive away (and offer a plethora of nonstop options), with a few other (smaller) airports in between. For longer and more expensive trips (especially with families) it can make sense to drive to BOS or NYC airports and fly out of them directly, even at the cost of staying in an airport hotel the night before.

      3. How about ORH? It sits in a large population area but in the past it was the access road that went through some bad parts of the city. Don’t know if that was ever remedied.

        1. Worcester airport is not easy to drive to because it’s a ways from I-290 (Worcester Expy) as opposed to both Logan and Bradley which are really close to freeways. Unless you live right in Worcester, Leicester, or Holden, it might be a better bet to drive the Pike to Logan.

    2. Hartford and Springfield are approximately 30 minute drive from one another with BDL slap dab in the middle and both cities respectively sit equidistance between Boston and NYC and, New Haven, Stamford and Worcester are close. There are approx 2 million people in the Hartford Springfield region. Add the other cities, and you have a potential goldmine, not to mention the affluence in their suburbs. Anyone familiar with flying out of JFK and BOS can attest to the hassles involved. There is nothing worse than getting off a transcon, transatlantic, or red eye and having to pay parking, sit in hours of traffic and pay tolls to get home. The Hartford/Springfield region is expanding commuter rails to points south to NYC and east to Boston. Tweed New Haven will never be a JFK LGA or even BDL, but it is a good option as well. Anything to avoid the NYC and BOS traffic and hassle.

  7. GRR is not as underserved as LAN so that might be a better option as Breeze wants to go to underserved airports, looking further ahead Breeze plans international flights and LAN has the only customs station in Michigan outside of Detroit and they already have seasonal wintertime flights to Cancun and Punta Cana.

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