A Semi-Breezy Experience from San Bernardino (Trip Report)

Breeze, Trip Reports

It finally happened. Though I flew Avelo almost immediately after the airline launched, I still hadn’t had the chance to fly Breeze until now. The original network was far from home, but even when they expanded west, they still weren’t flying where I needed to go. That finally changed… sort of.

I’m spending some time up in the mountains this summer, but I had to fly up to the Bay Area for the Air Service World Congress while I was away. Technically, Palm Springs and San Bernardino are nearly equidistant from where I am — both about an hour and a quarter drive. With the event in Berkeley, flying Southwest from Palm Springs to Oakland would have been easiest, but what’s the fun in that when I could add a new airport (San Bernardino), new airline (Breeze), and new aircraft type (Embraer 195)?

Breeze is the only airline that has ever flown to San Bernardino, and that’s only because it gets some hefty incentive money. It has a daily flight up to SFO which worked just fine for me. But when I first logged on, the airline inexplicably wanted over $100 for the flight up when every other day was half that. I decided to wait.

Thanks to a sale fare that popped in, the price tanked. I paid a whopping $88 roundtrip about a month in advance. That’s $13.67 in base fare, $48 in a “Technology Development Charge,” and $26.33 in non-made-up taxes and fees.

For a quick trip like this, I wasn’t planning on carrying on a bag, so I could avoid the $35 charge. I also figured that this flight would be very empty, so I did not in any way feel compelled to pay for a seat assignment. There were no ancillaries from me, sorry Breeze.

I downloaded the app and was prompted to check in the day prior. It asked me for my TSA Precheck number, which I swear I had already added. Then it gave me a seat map telling me to buy seats. With about half the seats empty (at least), I opted to take my chances. After checking in, I was given what I thought was window seat 10D from a seat map I pulled up online, so I was happy.

I left two and quarter hours before the flight, timing it so I would arrive an hour in advance. There was no traffic other than the large number of stoplights between the freeway and the airport that seemed specifically timed to make you hit red every time.

I pulled into the airport and straight ahead of me was a Delta 717 and a 737 along with an old Etihad A340-500, all in various states of disrepair. This view was enough to completely distract me, and I missed the entrance to parking. Oops.

After circling around, I saw the west parking lot was closed… Because there was no need for it. The closer east lot was open and mostly empty.

I pulled near the front where they have some covered spaces and crossed the street to the terminal. Not bad for an all-to-low $5 per day.

The faded, blue-hued terminal is tiny, and I mean that in the best way possible.

On the right is check in where there is definitely room for more airlines.

On the left is the sole baggage claim belt.

I scanned the departure board to find my gate. Ok, got it.

In the middle is security. It took me way to long to get through.

There were two people with what looked like their parents in wheelchairs. The ID check took a couple minutes and then going through security took even longer. They seemed to set everything off and they would keep trying. At one point, the agent pulled one person aside for hand screening and closed the metal detector entirely. Despite there being almost nobody there, it took me about 10 minutes to get to the other side.

It’s a short escalator ride up to the concourse. It’s very basic with a bathroom in one corner, a restaurant in another, and then four gates with not enough seating.

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of seating for one flight but everyone spread out to sit across all gate areas.

Somehow, the departure screen had failed at its one job. Our airplane was at gate 3, not gate 2.

They started boarding with zone 1, but I was in zone 4, the bad group for those who didn’t pay for carry ons.

Breeze 601
July 17, 2023

From San Bernardino
➤ Scheduled Departure: 1125a
➤ Actual Departure: 1119a
➤ From Gate: 3
➤ Wheels Up: 1144a
➤ From Runway: 24

To San Francisco
➤ Wheels Down: 1241p
➤ On Runway: 28L
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 1256p
➤ Actual Arrival: 1257p
➤ At Gate: D11

➤ Type: Embraer 195AR
➤ Delivered: June 24, 2015 to Azul
➤ Registered: N198BZ, msn 692
➤ Livery: Original Livery

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 10D
➤ Load: ~50% Full
➤ Flight Time: 57m

Onboard, I quickly learned that the seat map I had seen (from a third-party) was wrong. 10D was, in fact, an aisle, and I was sitting next to someone. Even though the flight attendants said nobody could move due to weight and balance concerns, I slid back one row into the window where there was nobody in the aisle. (I told the flight attendant later, and she said it was fine.)

The airplane looked clean if not completely generic. Legroom was fine. I was later told by a flight attendant that this airplane had only recently joined the fleet from Azul. It has an old interior and no entertainment. In short, I was not getting the real Breeze experience at all.

One of the flight attendants, Rob, made regular announcements during boarding, and he was quite the joker. For example, the airplane was really cold so he said, “We know it’s cold. This is the part of the experience we call freeze with Breeze.”

His tone was good, and people were laughing. But it wasn’t just him. One of the other flight attendants said during the safety briefing, “if Rob’s jokes don’t do it for you, there are 6 exits on this aircraft.”

We pushed back a little early and absolutely crawled to the east end for departure back toward the west. This gave me time to enjoy some of the sights of the boneyard at SBD.

We finally reached the runway to depart toward the west. It was a hot day so I expected some thermals on the way up but it was smooth as can be. Here’s a time lapse (sorry for the loss of focus at the 1 minute mark).

We turned south after departure before turning back northwest. I assume this is either to get enough altitude to clear the mountains or just because of busy SoCal traffic patterns.

It was a slow climb to altitude as we passed by some beautiful cloud formations.

The flight attendants came through with a beverage service. Water, coffee, and tea is included while everything else costs money. I just had water.

The seatbelt sign turned off for a few minutes at altitude and the friendly and engaged flight attendants were up and down the aisle much of the time. They were Provo-based and two of them looked very young. I thought maybe they were in the flight attendant program for college students, but I’m told that program ended entirely.

I walked to the back and looked forward to really get a sense of just how long that Embraer 195 is.

We descended into a cloudless day in the bay and touched down early.

We had to wait for a Breeze A220 to leave our gate. The flight attendant jokingly explained that since that airplane had a first class cabin, it got priority.

We blocked in one minute late and as a parting joke… “please don’t leave anything onboard. If you do, we’ll be happy to return it to you in the form of an online auction on eBay.”

I thanked the crew and then made a beeline for the Airtrain which would get me to BART to take me to the other side of the Bay. On the way home, I spent the night on the other side of the Bay to make it easy for my morning flight back from SFO.

I arrived at SFO at 8 and despite the line at Precheck, still made it through in about the same time as or faster than in San Bernardino.

I wandered around a little and then went to the gate where I asked the agent if I could switch from the aisle given to me over to a window. She moved me and I went to sit down and wait it out.

Apparently the next flight at our gate was on United, because people kept coming up and asking questions about their flight. The agents repeatedly had to tell them they worked for a different airline.

At the gate was the same chariot as before, so again I knew I wouldn’t get the full Breeze experience. Oh well, next time.

Boarding began a half hour before departure, but the plane was only about a quarter full, so it took just a few minutes to get everyone onboard.

Breeze 600
July 19, 2023

From San Francisco
➤ Scheduled Departure: 915a
➤ Actual Departure: 922a
➤ From Gate: D11
➤ Wheels Up: 938a
➤ From Runway: 1L

To San Bernardino
➤ Wheels Down: 1038a
➤ On Runway: 6
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 1043a
➤ Actual Arrival: 1042a
➤ At Gate: 3

➤ Type: Embraer 195AR
➤ Delivered: June 24, 2015 to Azul
➤ Registered: N198BZ, msn 692
➤ Livery: Original Livery

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 18A
➤ Load: ~25% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h

At the boarding door was one of the flight attendants that had flown us up. She said this was her third day in a row of doing the same thing. We again had Rob making jokes, but the third flight attendant was new.

Rob was on fire yet again, saying things like, “We know it’s cold but the choice is either this or so hot that your eyes are watering. We do offer blankets and jackets for $500. You’ll need to order that via eBay and hope they deliver to this aircraft in time.” I appreciated that it wasn’t the exact same schtick.

We learned that both our pilots were named Jeff so the flight attendants said they also went by Jeff, clearly just to make it easy for us.

We were buttoned up early but there was some congestion in the alleyway so we couldn’t actually push back until after scheduled departure. Rob told us to look out the window and give those two United jets “a big Breeze thank you” for making us sit there longer. I just appreciated the transparency.

We took off to the north and circled around to the west to get us heading southeast toward San Bernardino.

Rob came through with drinks, and I asked for tea. He said it would be about 5 minutes. Rob remembered me from the flight up so we got to talking.

He said this airplane was being sent to New Orleans at the end of the day, and a new one was waiting to take its place in Provo. Had I waited one more day, I apparently would have had a more normal Breeze experience.

Rob had earlier said they had no hard liquor onboard, and I asked about that. He said they if there are issues, it’s usually in Utah. But they cater the airplane at SFO and today for some reason they had only boarded beer and wine.

A surprising number of people ordered beers on this morning flight, and he offered one to me at no charge. I think he thought I wanted hard liquor and that was his way of apologizing, but I politely declined.

The seatbelt sign never came off on this flight even though it was a smooth ride. We just weren’t at altitude all that long before we started descending.

I had a great view of Edwards Air Force Base as we made our way southeast. We descended over the Cajon Pass with mountains on both sides before turning west and losing more altitude before looping back around to land toward the east. Here’s a time lapse of the arrival.

It was a relatively quick taxi back to the terminal, and there I was greeted by a view of this beauty. It’s not every day you get to see an Antonov 124.

I was off the airplane quickly and headed straight back to the car so I could make the drive back up the mountain.

Even though I didn’t get the full Breeze experience, or really, even close to it, I did get some Seriously Nice (sorry, couldn’t resist) service from the crew.

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25 comments on “A Semi-Breezy Experience from San Bernardino (Trip Report)

  1. Sounds like those FAs had an amazing attitude and left a great impression. I want to fly Breeze even more now after reading the trip report, and hope the price is right for a seat on a Breeze flight out of PWM or PVD the next time I am looking to get out of the cold.

    “Beat the freeze with Breeze” would be very memorable tagline for a marketing campaign by the airline in the fall or winter, especially when put on a billboard in the Midwest or Northeast.

    The shots from inside & outside SBD remind me a lot of PSM (Portsmouth, NH), which Allegiant runs a 2 or 3 flights a day out of.

    For some reason, it seems like at small airports with only a “few” (as in, say, < 10) flights per day, the security checks are often a little more intense, with "random" checks and additional screening much more common. I'm not sure if it's reduced boredom/stress for the TSA personnel, the higher ratio of TSA personnel to pax, or what, but it's clear pattern that I've noticed for many years and in many small airports.

  2. “Somehow, the departure screen had failed at its one job. Our airplane was at gate 3, not gate 2.”

    I wonder why they even bother with gate numbers for now. In the “Gate” space on the display, it should just say “Yes”.

    This reminds me I need to check the Breeze website for any close-in specials, I need to get a weekend as far north as possible, this summer has been particularly brutal here in Tampa.

  3. you can almost smell the SBD & Breeze money just burning in a giant bonfire through this trip report…

  4. I think I mentioned this before here, but I got to fly Breeze XNA-SAT back in August 2021. The E90 we were on had the Breeze interior, AKA reasonably comfortable slimline seats with device holders in the tray tables. Not a full flight (not was the one up from SAT that the rest of the family took), so service was quick.

    I’d absolutely fly them again, but they left SAT in early 2022 so the closest they’re available is MSY. So I have to deal with Allegiant instead.

  5. Do they have that massive ancillary fee on every flight? It makes me wonder if their incentives or tax breaks are based on ticket sales and so they’ve slid an absurd amount of that revenue into “tech fees” to hide it.

    1. I’m curious about that too. I’m hopeful that Brett can shine some light on that including whether he’s seen anything like that before on other airlines.

    2. that fee can be waived if you are at thier ticket counter on Tuesday 11AM-1PM ET. Frankly, their ticket counter may not even be open at your airport on Tuesdays. This is so specific, I just consider it part of the fare.

      1. The fact that I don’t know whether you’re joking or serious perfectly illustrates the insanity of life these days!

    3. Eric – Probably, and they aren’t alone. The ULCCs all love those silly fees that aren’t part of the base fare. It’s still shown including that fee online, so it’s not really all that useful.

      1. The fees are a tax dodge! It goes under ‘operating costs’ instead of revenue and gets tax at a lower rate, if at all!

  6. The SBD airport terminal actually looks weirdly big for an airport with that little traffic. Two airports I fly out of often (Wenatchee EAT and Penticton YYF) certainly don’t have fancy amenities like escalators or jetbridges, and having even one baggage belt is new at YYF! EAT just has a little ramp they drop the bags down. But same small airport security issues. With 3 agents staffing the checkpoint (one ID checker, one at the metal detector, and one at the X-ray machine), one person can really bog them down.

    1. TSA screening in smaller airports is, as much as anything, about providing high paid govt jobs.

      I was once in Lanai (small island in Hawaii) – I didn’t fly in, but was poking around the village and there was an off-duty TSA screener with her TSA uniform on. And I realized, holy cow, this little airport in the middle of nowhere has a complement of TSA screeners, and those are likely pretty good jobs for Lanai.

      It’s all about the govt cheese.

      To be fair, the SBD screeners are probably staffed from nearby ONT, so don’t represent the dead weight costs of screeners in some place remote, like Lanai (or some EAS market, or some village in Alaska).

      1. Nah, its not government cheese. Its congressional mandated standardization so we don’t have security bid to the lowest bidder by the airport/airlines.

        Fun fact, Brett didn’t get screened by the TSA at SFO, he was screened by a contractor, Covenant Aviation Security. Its one of the few, if not the only airport in the US that has contractors instead of TSA employees, and that too was also mandated by congress.

  7. Thanks for the report. The jet bridge at San Bernardino seems really long. Or is that an optical illusion?

    1. I just took a look at the satellite view of the terminal in Maps. The concourse is almost square, with fairly long jet bridges to different parking positions scattered around the building.

  8. I noticed what seems to be a long taxi/hold time of 25 minutes on the outbound flight from SBD. I wonder what the deal was with that as SBD doesn’t seem to be a very busy airport.

    1. Dale – We had to taxi from one end all the way to the far east side, and he was absolutely crawling at low speeds. I don’t think there was any sort of ATC delay or anything. It was just super slow.

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