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JetBlue founder's new airline Breeze delays launch to 2021

June 30, 2020
3 min read
JetBlue founder's new airline Breeze delays launch to 2021
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Those looking forward to trying out JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman's new airline venture Breeze Airways are going to have to wait.

Salt Lake City-based Breeze has opted to push the launch of passenger flights to 2021 from this year, spokesperson Gareth Edmondson-Jones confirmed to TPG on Tuesday. He did not say whether the delay was due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the airline industry particularly hard.

When it does begin flying, Breeze — initially code-named Moxy — plans to operate point-to-point flights aimed at leisure travelers in smaller U.S. markets that have lost service in recent years. Neeleman has said previously that the carrier will capitalize on technology to improve the customer experience.

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News of Breeze's delay comes as U.S. air travel remains at historic lows. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 625,235 people on Monday, June 29. This is about a quarter of the number of people it screened a year ago, or about the number of people that boarded U.S. airline flights daily in 1977.

At the same time, nearly every carrier is expected to post an annual loss in 2020 after nearly a decade of industry profits. Three regional airlines have already closed their doors, two as flying contracts were not renewed and one, RavnAir in Alaska, as revenues dried up.

Given the backdrop, some may argue this is not the best time to launch a new airline.

Related: Neeleman’s new airline Breeze to first fly routes in eastern U.S.

That may not be how Neeleman sees it. An industry veteran who has launched or helped launch four successful airlines — Azul in Brazil, JetBlue, Morris Air and WestJet in Canada — the market opportunity he previously saw for Breeze may only expand due to the virus.

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“There’s just a lot of scraps that the big guys have left,” Neelman told TPG in February. “They’ve left a lot of city pairs, they’ve left a lot of other things untouched. I think we can fill that void nicely with the two aircraft types that we have coming.”

If this was true in February, before the pandemic hit with a vengeance, it is even more likely to be true today with most airlines flying just a fraction of their pre-crisis schedules. Frontier Airlines and JetBlue have already identified opportunities for new routes connecting former-hub cities like Cincinnati (CVG) and Pittsburgh (PIT) with leisure destinations in Florida and elsewhere.

Related: JetBlue founder’s new U.S. airline now has a name: Breeze Airways

Ultimately, the Breeze can only launch once it receives U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certification. That process is still on going.

The airline plans to begin flying with a fleet of 28 used Embraer E195s acquired from Azul. It then plans to expand with new Airbus A220-300s that, prior to the coronavirus, were due to begin arriving in 2021.

The temporary closures of some of Airbus' assembly lines have delayed the deliveries of some jets.

Related: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening

Featured image by A rendering of an Embraer E195 in the planned livery for start-up carrier Breeze Airways. (Image courtesy of Breeze Airways.)