Breeze Shows Off Its A220 Capabilities With New Westchester Flights

Breeze

I know I said I was on vacation this week, but it turns out I hadn’t finished writing up the next part of my California Corridor Challenge trip report anyway. I went to put that together, but then I saw the news from Breeze and just had to write it up.

Breeze will launch service from Westchester County north of New York City as follows:

  • Charleston, SC – 1x daily from June 28
  • Norfolk – 5x weekly from June 30
  • Jacksonville – 3x weekly from June 30
  • Los Angeles – 1x daily from September 7
  • Las Vegas – 1x daily from September 8
  • Savannah – 2x weekly from September 9
  • San Francisco – 1x daily from November 2

Charleston and the trio of West Coast routes will operate with the A220, which is just about the perfect airplane for the job. After all, Westchester doesn’t have a long runway at 6,549 feet, so launching a transcontinental route is no small feat. But with the A220, it can apparently work… and there’s more buffer since they’re using those very-not-dense A220s with 36 seats up front in the premium cabin.

Can the airplane really make it? I don’t see why not. After all, Orange County has a 5,700 foot runway and United can fly nonstop to Honolulu from there using a 737-700. That happens to be the exact same distance as Westchester – San Francisco.

This isn’t a perfect comparison. After all, the winter headwinds are going to be stiffer on the transcon from Westchester than they are to Hawai’i. The jetstream doesn’t wreak as much havoc on westbound flights heading that far south. But with a thousand feet more runway and a less dense A220, it seems like this should work at least most of the time.

The other — and frankly, most interesting — piece of this equation is that Westchester has slots… or something like that. Thanks to the airport’s Terminal Use Agreement, the airport can have no more than 4 flights per half hour, and there can’t be more than 240 passengers (inbound and outbound) in each half hour as well. Here’s the current split of seat share.

May 2022 Westchester (HPN) Seat Share

Data via Cirium

That might explain some of the more curious flight times. For example, Westchester – Jacksonville leaves in the evening, as do many of the other East Coast flights. The Vegas flight goes in the early afternoon with a redeye return. LAX is a morning flight in both directions, but SFO is morning westbound and afternoon eastbound. Are these exactly how Breeze would have scheduled them if there were no constraints? I doubt it. But you take what you can get.

It’s hard for me not to love this plan, assuming the airline sticks to its leisure travel appeal. Yes, Westchester is where a lot of high-powered business people live, but this is a leisure schedule. Even 1x daily isn’t going to help much for a business person who needs multiple options to get home at different times. Sure, if the time is right, then a business person may take the flight, but with so much more frequency at JFK or Newark, it can never be true competition. But on the leisure side? It’s a different story.

There is so much traffic between New York and these markets in the west that it’s hard to imagine these not being successful. Having Westchester as a controlled airport makes it even better… though I should point out that both JetBlue and Delta have A220s. They could give this a shot as well if they want, and Breeze wouldn’t love that. But then again, airlines that go up against David Neeleman in transcon markets don’t tend to do so well. Just ask American how its Long Beach – JFK experiment went back in the day.

The shorter East Coast markets are also pretty interesting. There’s a whole lot of overlap with Avelo’s first round of non-Florida flying from New Haven. Both Savannah and Charleston will be on the list for both airlines, probably because they can both seem the same data. These are popular markets for those around New York, and presumably serving them from more airports will only increase demand.

On those shorter flights, the biggest risk is having the wrong flight times. Time of day matters more and more the shorter the flight, especially when there is nearby competition. The convenience of Westchester will have a strong pull for those who were otherwise going to use primary New York airports, but the pull may be less strong once you get into Connecticut if they have New Haven as an option too.

Breeze will have wifi, power, and all the stuff you need on a transcon on the A220s, so from a product perspective, I’d think these will be attractive. To me, it really comes down to whether the flight times work and if Breeze can pry people away from their primary airlines and their elite programs.

Of everything Breeze has launched so far, I like this best. Now let’s see if customers behave the way Breeze expects.

35 comments on “Breeze Shows Off Its A220 Capabilities With New Westchester Flights

  1. The new transcon routes Breeze announced to LAX, SFO, and LAS represent a meaningful and smart addition to White Plains/Westchester County airport over the usual stuff of expansion there (Florida, and leisure markets). But even at one flight per day, I see them struggle to fill the planes each day. Not sure there is that much demand and the expense account, business travel, and wealthy base of flyers there would probably want to keep to an airline with broader reach than Breeze.

    1. yeah, I’m going to end up agreeing with you. That said it’s worth a shot to break away from the mold of east coast/ Florida or mid-west hub flying from HPN.

      As for CT, it depends on how far up the Turnpike/ I-95 you are. Before Bridgeport you are closer to HPN & beyond Bridgeport HVN is closer.

  2. People tend to focus on the super wealthy (execs and hedge fund managers) when thinking about HPN’s pax, but there are a sizeable number of large corporations with headquarters and/or significant operations near HPN.

    That, in turn, means a corresponding number of corporate worker bees (think: middle managers, analysts, young professionals, etc) in the White Plains / Stamford area who make decent (just not executive-level) money, have some disposable income, and who likely take 1-3 trips a year for leisure. I don’t think that this “upper middle class” (at least by the standards of the area, given the high cost of living) group of potential customers should be underrated, and it sounds like Breeze’s product will be a decent fit for many of them.

    HPN certainly isn’t as convenient as it theoretically could be (given its location), but for most people in Westchester County and in/near the CT panhandle, getting to HPN is still much easier than getting to LGA or most other commercial airports in the area.

    1. This is spot-on. Also, if those worker bees have a work conference in LA or SF, a Breeze flight from HPN is going to be a strong option, especially if the cash price of a domestic first-class seat is low enough that it’s within their employer’s travel policy.

      1. The problem is many mid to larger sized corporations have travel policies that favor one or two airlines for choice, and those are going to be the legacy carriers, not Breeze. Low fares on 3 routes vs. a network that is discounted is the issue.

    2. Count me in as this targeted audience. A direct flight to LAX and SFO without going to EWR or JFK saves me half a day each way. I really hope Breeze can do well on these routes and expand to more routes or frequency in the future.

  3. I love this move. I’ve long thought HPN was the underrated gem among the “secondary airports” in the NY metro area. It’s unique in that it’s actually within the core suburban ring, rather than on the outer edge or outside that ring.

    Most of the other airports that get discussed as secondary airports for NY (SWF, TTN, now HVN) are so far away that they’re outside the Census-define NY MSA – in other words, outside the geographic area of typical commuters to NYC and its surroundings. ISP is within the MSA, but it has unique challenges – being on an island limits its catchment area, as does its proximity to JFK.

    HPN is different – it’s right in the middle of a huge community of high-income NYC commuters, and right next to Greenwich and White Plains, both of which have substantial employer clusters of their own.

    I had assumed that the restrictions imposed by the county would prevent HPN from actually growing into this potential, but it’s great to see that Breeze found a way to fit useful service within those restrictions.

    I also think you’re underrating the potential for the transcon routes to capture a substantial number of business travelers. There are a ton of professionals in Westchester and Greenwich counties who take business trips a couple times per year (e.g. for investment conferences, or meetings at the headquarters of tech companies in the Bay Area), but don’t fly enough to earn any meaningful status. Breeze looks pretty compelling for business travelers who match that profile. They can avoid a miserable drive to JFK (LGA not an option for transcons), and Breeze also offers the option for non-elites to buy a first-class seat at a reasonable price, including buying it in just one direction to save cost (this has also been a selling point for JetBlue).

    One thing I’m pretty sure this won’t do: Attract travelers with NYC as their destination. It’s annoying, time consuming, and a bit expensive to get to NYC from HPN, so it won’t be that attractive to many people traveling to NYC. I’d imagine the strategy is focused almost 100% on travelers originating in suburbs north of NYC, along with some VFR traffic to Westchester and Greenwich.

    1. The main problem I see with making the transcons appeal to business travelers (and even some leisure travelers) is the once-a-day frequency. If there’s a problem with the plane or crew, passengers could be delayed by several days if there aren’t enough seats open the next day to rebook or enough capacity (and schedule alignment) elsewhere in the Breeze system to allow connections.

      Unless Breeze is willing to reacommodate passengers on other airlines in cases like this, or able to add special sections, this limitation could be a damper on demand for anyone who’s even mildly day-sensitive.

      The general idea is good, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try it at ISP if it’s successful. Google Maps says ISP is an hour west of (to pick an example) East Hampton, and then JFK is another hour west. I flew to JFK to go visit a friend in East Hampton twice, and both times it took three hours to get from EH to JFK….and there’s a lot of people out in the Hamptons who aren’t rich. (My friend was a restaurant employee. Good money, but not rich.)

      1. I think a lot of infrequent business travelers don’t really factor in the possibility of IRROPS. Also, many employers would essentially bail the employee out in this situation – they’d likely be able to get a refund from Breeze and expense a last-minute ticket on another airline.

        ISP is tricky because people in most of Nassau County would be relatively indifferent between JFK and ISP, and many would actually prefer JFK due to its much better connection with LIRR. If potential passengers are indifferent between JFK and ISP, then Breeze would have to provide something better than the heavy existing competition at JFK – some combination of lower fares, better schedule, or better product.

        HPN is different because most of Westchester County, NY, and Fairfield County, CT would pay a premium to fly out of there, assuming all else was equal (airline status, schedules, IRROPs possibilities, etc.), because flying out of HPN saves them >1 hour of expected traffic in each direction.

        ISP is likely preferred by most people who live in Suffolk County, NY, but it’s somewhat smaller than Westchester + Fairfield and doesn’t have the same clusters of high-end employment. However, pandemic trends might be a big tailwind for ISP and Suffolk County generally – I know at least one financial firm that had a seasonal office in the Hamptons that they are considering upgrading to year-round status.

        I could see ISP-LAS being really successful, but I’m less certain how much year-round demand there would be for ISP-LAX or ISP-SFO. Would be interesting to find out, though!

        1. In my opinion ISPs biggest problem is that their passenger terminal is located on the southern corner of their airfield. The LIRR Ronkonkoma Station borders the northern edge of the airfield and I know the airport is stuying building a new passenger terminal and closing the current terminal.

          The LIRR Ronkonkoma Branch has hourly or better service so it would be a really good option, unlike some regional rail services that directly service airports (thinking about SBN where their just 5 trains per day)

          1. Yeah the current layout is such a big missed opportunity – they could have a direct connection to the train, but instead you need to pay a taxi to drive you around the perimeter of the airport. A terminal on the north side would provide a much quicker connection to the LIE as well.

            Jamaica is still a better LIRR connection for originating passengers who don’t live near the Ronkonkoma Branch, but a convenient direct train from the terminal to Manhattan would be a huge asset, and something no other NYC airport offers.

    2. TTN & SWF are within the NY metro area, but on the extremes of it unlike HPN as stated being in the sweet spot of some of the wealthiest areas in the country.

      1. TTN and SWF are within the Census-defined New York-Newark Combined Statistical Area (as is HVN), but neither one is within the New York-Newark-Jersey City Metropolitan Statistical Area. TTN is in the Trenton-Princeton MSA, and SWF is in the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown MSA.

        The distinction basically means that the commuting links from those areas to NYC are weaker than the commuting links to NYC of the counties that are included in the MSA.

  4. “Fascinating”, as a certain Vulcan would say – thanks Cranky!

    I will be interested in seeing how this plays out, and as a bit of an equipment geek I am definitely curious to see how well the A220 performs. I’ll be watching FlightAware to see how many times a westbound diversion/technical stop happens when it just gets a bit too tight on fuel. (Assuming they divert because they didn’t sell some seats or bump passengers when they needed to for range reasons, despite the lower-density seating arrangement – if the involuntary denied boarding happens on a windy winter day, they’ll be a lot of grousing from both business and leisure travelers…)

    By the way, besides the (I’m going to go ahead and say “draconian”) dictates of the Terminal Use “Agreement”, I have always understood the other big issue at HPN has been passenger parking. It is quite restricted there (it has a relatively small garage, although it looks like they now have a reservation system in place), and if I recall correctly it would end up “Full” pre-COVID frequently, especially around any holiday. I know, I know – we now have Uber and Lyft and whatnot, but I think for a good portion of travers the easy and reliable availability of parking matters.

    1. I’m always floored at how the county actively avoids making the improvements that would make the airport better and more usable. They have tons of land available to fix the parking situation, and could easily fund it by selling bonds against the parking revenue, but they don’t do it because residents want as many restrictions on growth of the airport as possible.

      Similar story on runway length – they have plenty of room to extend it in both directions to resolve the short runway issue, but they don’t want to.

      There’s tons of unmet demand there, and it just turns into more traffic on local highways as people drive to LGA and JFK instead.

      For anyone flying out of HPN: There is cheaper and consistently available parking at Purchase College, with a shuttle bus from there to the airport. If you’re starting from nearby (e.g. White Plains or Greenwich), Uber is probably the easiest way to go, though.

      1. Alex – all fair points. But if my memory is accurate, the real issue is not just the County, but actually all the residents (who are very wealthy and connected and thus can afford lawyers) in Greenwich, Connecticut, that adjoins HPN (even if over the state line). I think alot of the opposition to HPN’s expansion comes from Greenwich, and I think they have even sued the County over HPN’s *commercial* growth (one absolutely must retain one’s access to the PJs that can take one to Aspen, after all…)

      2. I think you answered your own concern about lack of improvements. The NIMBYs don’t want planes flying over unless its their flight to their winter home in PBI. The locals even fight about making the terminal larger just to be able to add chairs in the boarding area, even though it wouldn’t change the amount/size of the planes flying. Anti-airport people have never been the most reasonable.

      3. Most people may not know this, HPN has the highest percentage of private/ corporate jet concentration in the US. And yet the nimby’s in Greenwich who have such dislike for the airport would benefit the most if there were any expansion to the property.

  5. I’m warming up to Breeze very quickly and think the HPN market makes a ton of sense. Said it before and I’ll say it again. The secret sauce here, in my opinion, is a bundled premium product that is a great value. Better quality than anything you’d find on a ULCC or legacy economy / economy minus, but still much cheaper than flying up front on the legacies. So, yes they’re targeting leisure travelers, but not ones quite as price sensitive as the target Spirit / Allegiant / Frontier customer. HPN seems like its got a lot of that demographic.

    Granted, I’m biased because CHS is my home airport and I’m loving all the options. That makes for an interesting arrivals board, but at the end of the day what matters to them is that I’m deciding to buy tickets (which I’ve done several times now) because it’s the only way I’m getting a first-class(ish) experience on a regular basis in my price range.

  6. A thought: runways shorter than LGA’s. An A220-300 that the airline feels is west coast range-capable with no issues. Begs the question: when will the silly perimeter rule at LGA (finally) be abolished. With Breeze at HPN, now there is another “vested interest” who will want the LGA perimeter rule kept in place. Ugh.

  7. There’s one notable counterexample of going up against David Neeleman in transcon markets. I’m sure Cranky remembers how successful JetBlue wasn’t at flying Long Beach-Atlanta. Though that might have been less of a JetBlue problem and more of getting caught in the crossfire between Delta and AirTran over LAX-ATL.

  8. JetBlue makes a ton of money flying from HPN to FL so they’d likely have almost no interest in flying tcon from there. I think Breeze will do well, but I’m curious how they got their slots. The slot allocations are virtually full throughout the day except the very early mornings and very late nights.

    1. That’s why the schedules are a bit odd – HPN can have four flights per half-hour with a maximum of 240 passengers – the passenger count is for combined arriving and departing. (I’m not sure if the four flights is combined arrivals and departures or just departures.) There’s a voluntary curfew between midnight and 6:30 am.

      So it’s a matter of working around airlines that are already there where passenger movement count and flight movements are available.

      NIMBYism at its finest, especially since as far as I know there are no restrictions on private aircraft.

  9. A question for equipment geeks:

    Could a full A220-300 in the configuration Breeze is using handle a transcon to LAX or SFO from TTN? Main runway at TTN is 6000 ft, vs. the 6550 ft at HPN.

    As Cranky mentioned, the runway at SNA is even shorter (5700 ft), and UA and AA both run SNA-NYC nonstops (on an 737 NG and a very premium-heavy A321, respectively). At the same time, I’m not sure how much it matters that the short runway is on the western terminus, where eastbound flights can afford to take off a little lighter on fuel because they won’t be fighting the jet stream the whole way.

    If it’s technically possible, nonstops from TTN to the West Coast might be an interesting thing to try. Demographics aren’t nearly as favorable as they are for HPN: TTN is in somewhat of a no-mans-land that’s not particularly close to the affluent suburbs of either NYC or Philadelphia. At the same time, NJ and eastern PA are comparatively very dense regions, and Frontier has demonstrated that there is a commercially viable amount of demand to fly from TTN.

    Following the theme of “edge cities that Frontier demonstrated might be viable, but don’t have transcon service”, it would be interesting to see them kick the tires flights from ILG to Vegas or the West Coast, although I think the catchment area there is even worse than TTN. Might support 2x/week or something like that, though.

  10. For the Hawai’i comparison, don’t they have to carry more fuel reserves due to ETOPS considerations than for an overland transcon? That would help offset lighter average headwinds.

  11. The A220 is absolutely the plane to make longhaul domestic flights possible from small, short field airports like HPN. I am sure Breeze has carefully run the numbers and knows the few – if any – types of conditions under which the A220 won’t make it w/o a fuel stop but I am betting those days are rare.
    It is notable that Breeze jumped in as JetBlue had to pull back because it was chasing too many strategies and had to focus on the NEA. The symbolism and reality of Breeze making HPN work right outside the big hubs in NYC is far more satisfying for them than perhaps any other market. HPN is and will be a small airport so the percent of capacity compared to NYC is minor.
    HPN is a small, protected market so the chances are high Breeze will succeed. Add in the very strong reports of demand that have come out from airlines as part of their quarterly reports and this summer could be a very solid period for the upstarts.

    As for local unwillingness to improve the airport, the NE and west coasts are and will be more densely populated and more resistant to seeing aviation grow.

    Regarding the discussion of removing or relaxing perimeter restrictions at LGA, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a re-evaluation of all of the slot restrictions and the perimeter rule at LGA and JFK once the LGA terminal rebuild is complete and esp. if B6 merges with NK; although NK is small in NYC, any market concentration at airports where there is no room to grow matters competitively.
    And the A220 could well be part of extending the number of routes that can be served from LGA. The B757 and B767 can also do transcon from JFK and the A321NEO can in at least some configurations as well as the MAX7.

    Aircraft technology is opening up longer routes from smaller airports and also reducing the noise factor which is part of why so many locals object to the growth of airports in their neighborhoods.

  12. The comment above about lack of options due to IRROPPS is a valid one – just three weeks ago I was in White Plains for a meeting; I drove. Two friends flew into HPN: their flight was cancelled and they had to stay an extra day due to lack of options.

    1. I’m surprised they didn’t just ask to be rebooked from LGA. That would have been my strategy if my flight was canceled out of HPN. Taxi to Metro-North to the M60 bus. I have family in Northern Manhattan and HPN I’ve never actually flown into but I’ve always joked is my “Hail Mary” airport if there were cancelations or significant delays on flights to all 3 if the NYC airports and a flight running on time to HPN I would be asked to rebooked there.

      1. Taxi from HPN directly to LGA (across the Whitestone bridge) is probably quicker and cheaper than a taxi to 125th St in Manhattan.

        If you wanted to use transit (for cost, or to skip the traffic), then taxi to White Plains Metro North, train to 125th St, then M60 to LGA is probably the way to go.

      2. Not sure HPN is considered the same market (“coterminus”? “co-terminal”? I can’t remember the right term) with LGA, so the airline could have wanted an exorbitant fare difference to rebook. I’ve had this happen when I suggested an airport change. (Or the flights at LGA may have been full?)

        On the other hand, I had a DL employee at JFK want to send me to Orlando when I was trying to get to Tampa, and got very annoyed when I asked her if there was something the airline would do to get me from Orlando to Tampa, since they’re 93 miles apart and being that it was Christmas my odds of getting a rental car at MCO were slim to none.

        So your mileage may vary, and it never hurts to ask politely.

  13. I have no analysis to add. I just think it’s funny that the lead photo on HPN’s official website is of a United widebody.

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Cranky Flier