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
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.