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.