Skip to content

Pilot shortage brings growth concerns to Breeze Airways

Jan. 12, 2022
5 min read
Pilot shortage brings growth concerns to Breeze Airways
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The U.S. pilot shortage has reached upstart Breeze Airways.

Facing the same issues as many of its peers, the ultra-low-cost carrier last month increased the pay for its pilots, and, in a controversial move, is actively recruiting pilots from Australia to fill its flight decks.

“We're casting a wide net,” Chris Owens, Breeze’s vice president of flight operations, said in an interview with TPG. “There’s a limited supply of highly qualified pilots and a huge demand for highly qualified pilots.”

The pay increase announced last month moves starting first officer pay on the carrier’s Embraer 190s and 195s from $55 a flight hour to $61 a flight hour, an increase of 11%. Pay increases by an average of 12% for each year of seniority. Starting captain pay moves from $117 a flight hour to $129 a flight hour, an increase of 10%. Pay then increases an average of 14% a year for each year of seniority.

The pay increases are more significant for pilots who fly the carrier’s Airbus A220 fleet, which is expected to enter service in the second quarter of this year. First-year first officers move from $55 a flight hour to $68 a flight hour, an increase of 24%. Pay then increases an average of 25% a year for each year of seniority. First-year captains move from $117 a flight hour to $131 a flight hour, an increase of 12%. Pay will then increase an average of 27% a year for each year of seniority.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

In a bid to retain its pilots, the airline also began to increase the pay of individual Embraer pilots. For each A220 pilot that the airline hires, an Embraer pilot will begin to receive A220 pay, starting at the top of the seniority list and moving on down. This is being done to help keep Embraer pilots happy with their current jet as the larger, more desirable A220 comes online at the airline.

Breeze is beginning to pay some Embraer pilots the same rates as A220 pilots. The carrier hopes to begin A220 operations in the second quarter. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The pay still lags behind Avelo Airlines, which operates on a similar business model and began operations a month before Breeze, though Avelo flies the Boeing 737, which typically commands a higher pay rate than the aircraft that Breeze flies. Notably, it also is lower than the pay at JetBlue, which operates both types of aircraft in Breeze’s fleet and was also founded by David Neeleman.

“We look at JetBlue as a legacy carrier — we're 7 months old, we have to get our footing,” Owens said. “We have to be financially responsible.”

Sign up for our daily newsletter

In determining the new pay, he said the airline “looked at what Avelo was doing on this.”

Owens urged prospective Breeze pilots to look at the captain rates, since he said there are quick upgrade opportunities available at the new and growing airline.

However, Owens said that pilot supply issues could hinder the airline’s growth.

“Between attrition and then continuing to attract qualified pilots, there’s definitely a concern about Breeze's ability to grow,” he said.

“I wouldn't say it's unusual attrition, but we always have attrition,” he added. “We always take it personally when someone leaves Breeze. I don't think it's money alone.”

More: Inside Breeze Airways’ swanky Airbus A220 with a whopping 36 first-class recliners

Breeze is actively recruiting pilots from Australia, where the airline industry has been slower to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline is taking advantage of a U.S. visa program that is specific to Australian nationals employed in specialty occupations. The move has been criticized on airline pilot discussion boards, Facebook groups and by many of Breeze’s own pilots.

Despite that stateside criticism, however, Owens said that — so far — the program has proved popular among Australians. Owens said the airline has received 135 applications from Australian pilots, of which 107 met the job requirements. These applicants are quite experienced, he said, with an average of 8,000 flying hours under an applicant’s belt.

Another challenge for Breeze: simulator time. The airline does not yet have its own flight simulators, so it’s competing against other airlines that fly the Embraer E-Jets, including regional airlines that are experiencing a significant amount of turnover and require a lot of simulator time.

Breeze plans on operating its own Embraer simulator in Salt Lake City by the end of March, and an A220 simulator by November.

For now, Owens had effusive praise for the airlines’ pilots as it goes through some growing pains.

"We’re very, very pleased with our pilots,” he said. “We have amazing pilots, with great professionalism. These guys have just done a fabulous job."

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023