David Neeleman, who founded JetBlue over 20 years ago, announced plans to start Breeze airlines, his fifth airline startup, earlier this week. Neeleman has previously launched Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue and Azul. Breeze will be a Utah-based carrier, and Neeleman has stated that his flights intend to serve underserved and unappreciated city pairs using primarily A220 and E195 aircraft.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Neeleman’s approach is to “prioritize a customer-centric system by taking methods from Uber and Amazon and launching an app-based toolkit that would allow passengers to find tickets, change or update travel plans, and add other travel necessities such as car rentals and accommodations”.
This approach, and the larger approach from Breeze to operate underserved city pairs with more efficient commercial-sized aircraft, reflect the general sentiment of the economics of the aerial mobility industry – create a point to point nodal network of operations, in lieu of a hub and spoke model – to realize the largest benefits for reduction of connecting flights (in airline speak) or additional car or bike/scooter trips (in aerial mobility speak).
While this comparison is far from direct, it helps to emphasize the high level direction of the commercial airline industry, and underscore the acknowledgment of executive leadership in commercial aviation operations to start to shift their mindsets.
Neeleman also commented on the ease and customer experience with aptly named Breeze: “The goal is to have our customers … never having to speak with anybody, if they don’t want to,” Neeleman said. “Add a car, add a hotel, cancel a flight, make changes, it will all be there at your fingertips. Completely hassle-free flying.” This sort of approach is exactly that of BLADE UAM and other on-demand aerial mobility companies that intend on users being able to book an entire trip through an app in a matter of minutes.
Regarding flight operations, Breeze Aviation is also shifting towards aircraft that perform exceptionally well on a nodal, small to medium size passenger base route: 30 Embraer 195 aircraft from Azul are leased that are expected to start flights in May, and Neeleman has ordered 60 new Airbus 220-300 aircraft that are expected to start flights in April 2021, company officials said.
The Airbus A220, currently being operated by Delta Airlines in The States, is performing exceptionally well on medium-haul routes, leveraging recent avionics, propulsion, and customer and cabin experience technologies that gain widespread passenger approval. The E195, part of the Embraer E-Jets family, is a top performer on routes that are slightly shorter than that of the A220.
According to Neeleman, Breeze could earn more than $1 million in tax rebates on plans to make over $3 million in capital investments and hire about 370 employees.
Why it’s important: While Breeze Airways is a new short to medium haul airline, the goals that Neeleman has emphasized with regards to customer experience in booking through travel lifecycle, paired with the focus on nodal transport networks and newer, fuel efficient commercial aircraft represent a paradigm shift that many larger carriers will inevitably adopt over the coming years. The airline industry is a difficult one to navigate – and Breeze’s pathway towards profitability will likely serve as a good barometer for larger cultural shifts in the aviation industry in years to come. Aerial mobility has already adopted (and may be argued is a pioneer of) the approach that Breeze Airways is taking towards transportation.