Breeze unveils its first Airbus A220, a snazzy jet for the new startup airline
It’s a big day for Breeze Airways, as the carrier has formally unveiled its new domestic workhorse, the Airbus A220.
Breeze took the wraps off its first A220-300 during a ceremony held at the Airbus manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama, on Tuesday morning, with a group of executives, dignitaries and select media in attendance.
While Tuesday marks the first time the public has seen a Breeze A220, many more are on their way. The airline has agreed to purchase 80 jets of the larger -300 variant, which would make the five-month-old airline the largest A220-300 customer in the world.
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Breeze will take delivery of one A220 each month starting in October 2021 for the next six and a half years. The airline will begin deploying the plane in the coming months, first in existing markets and then on new transcontinental routes that’ll be announced in early 2022.
When all is said and done, Breeze won’t just be the largest A220-300 operator; it’ll also offer one of the most premium-heavy configurations you’ll find in the sky.
The airline is outfitting the fleet with a whopping 36 first-class recliners in a 2-2 configuration, spanning nine rows — nearly half of the entire cabin’s footprint. The airline selected the Safran Seats Z600 seat for its “Nicest” first-class cabin, with 20.5 inches of width and 39 inches of pitch. These recliners also have a footrest.
The remainder of the cabin is decked out with standard coach seats — the Safran Seats US Z110i — in a 2-3 configuration. There are ten extra legroom seats with 33 inches of pitch, and 80 regular coach seats with between 30 and 31 inches of pitch. All coach seats measure 18.8 inches wide.
There are in-seat AC power outlets and USB charging ports at each seat. Satellite-based Wi-Fi will be available for a “nominal fee,” with free access for first-class passengers. Note that the airline hasn’t yet finalized which internet provider it’ll use. (A decision is expected in the coming weeks.)
From a passenger experience perspective, the only thing missing is seat-back TVs. The airline will instead offer streaming content that you can access via your own mobile device.
To complement the launch of its business-class product, Breeze is also introducing a new fare product, dubbed the “Nicest” fare, that’ll be sold exclusively on flights operated by the A220-300. This ticket will grant you access to one of the recliners, as well as a second checked bag, accelerated frequent flyer point earning and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Ever since its introduction in 2016, the Airbus A220 has become a flyer-favorite. Thanks to the spacious configuration with one less middle seat per row, oversized overhead bins, large windows, wide aisles and modern finishes, the A220 is a pleasure to fly, and Breeze’s model is poised to be one of the swankiest in the sky.
“The A220-300 is a game-changer for us as we add long haul flights that can average five hours, including transcontinental service,” Breeze founder and CEO David Neeleman said in a statement. “By the end of 2022, Breeze will have 15 A220s in service. This aircraft is the perfect addition to our fast-growing airline as we seek to bring our Seriously Nice service to more communities across the U.S. and beyond.”
From the airline perspective, the A220 offers exceptional economics, with lower operating costs per seat compared to similar aircraft. The aircraft was purpose-built for the 100 to 150 seat market segment with nearly 1,100 nautical miles more range than other single-aisle jets.
Other savings include lower fuel burn, carbon emissions and a nearly 50% noise reduction compared to similar jets.
Plus, in Breeze's case, the airline will dynamically change the A220's LOPA, or layout of passenger accommodation, depending on seasonality and demand. At a media briefing, Neeleman explained that the airline can remove some rows of first-class recliners and sub in coach seats during an overnight maintenance check — without performing any other cabin modifications around the overhead bins or passenger service units.
So, if premium demand is soft for a certain market or time period, the airline can make the necessary gauge adjustment without a multi-year and cost-prohibitive retrofit program.
All told, it's no surprise to see the A220 continue to gain traction in the North American market, where there are currently three other operators of the jet. Air Canada and Delta offer a first-class cabin, but both have just 12 recliners on their A220-300s — 24 fewer than Breeze will have. The third operator, JetBlue, outfits its A220 in a 140-seat all-economy configuration.
Breeze is one of America’s newest startup airlines, founded by serial airline entrepreneur David Neeleman, who’s perhaps most famous in the U.S. for launching JetBlue. Neeleman has also been involved in numerous other airlines worldwide, including Azul in Brazil and TAP in Portugal.
The airline launched in May with 39 routes between 16 midsized markets, focused on cities that are too small for major carriers to serve beyond flights to their hubs. To date, the airline's fleet consists of a handful of used Embraer E190 and E195 jets.
Now, however, with the modern, snazzy and fuel-efficient A220 officially on its way, the airline is charting a new path forward. How it'll fare is anyone's guess, but at least you're likely to be in for a comfortable ride.
Stay tuned to TPG for more coverage of Breeze's new Airbus A220!