New startup Breeze Airways takes flight today with inaugural flight from Florida

May 27, 2021

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After years of speculation and patient waiting, the day is finally here: Breeze Airways will join the roster of U.S. airlines

The start-up, mid-market budget carrier is scheduled to make its inaugural flight today, leaving Tampa at 10:30 a.m. ET, bound for Charleston, South Carolina.

The debut caps months of waiting for the airline, the latest effort by serial airline entrepreneur and JetBlue founder David Neeleman, as it received the final regulatory approvals needed to begin service.

UPDATE FROM FIRST FLIGHT: First look: What Breeze Airways brings to the skies

Neeleman first revealed plans for the airline in 2018 under its original codename Moxy. The carrier’s original launch was expected to come earlier this year, before being slowed by the pandemic.

Now, Neeleman will find out whether it was worth the wait. The carrier will phase in 39 new routes across 16 cities between today and the end of July.

Most of the routes will be concentrated around four focus cities: Tampa; New Orleans; Charleston, South Carolina, and Norfolk, Virginia.

But there’ll be a handful of flights outside those cities – so called “point-to-point” routes like Hartford to Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh to Providence.

In-depth: Neeleman tells TPG Breeze will use a ‘see how it goes’ approach to succeed. And business class — eventually

It’s all part of Neeleman’s plan to connect midsized markets with nonstop flights, focusing on cities that are too small for major carriers to serve beyond flights to their hubs. That should help Breeze avoid competition from the major airlines.

But Neeleman isn’t the only one with a similar plan. Breeze is launching nearly a month to the day after another startup carrier began service with a similar blueprint.

That carrier, Avelo, began flying on April 28 with 11 routes from its first base in Burbank, California. The airline has already announced plans for a second base in Connecticut – it’s first on the East Coast – that will begin later this year.

Fresh wind coming: Breeze puts first 39 routes on sale for as little as $39

The other one: Startup Avelo was going to launch in East, but it went West to capitalize on rivals’ cuts in California

It’s part of a broader bet being made by both Neeleman and Avelo founder Andrew Levy. They believe that a wave of mergers among U.S. airlines during the past decade has opened the door for budget startups to court customers with nonstop flights between cities that they think bigger airlines have ignored as they’ve grown and focused on their hubs.

It remains to be seen whether the gamble will pay off over the long term. But, for today, the industry’s attention will be on the latest effort by Neeleman, whose record of success with startup carriers is second to none.

Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

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