JetBlue founder’s newest airline, Breeze Airways, is taking off

Breeze Airways is targeting secondary cities overlooked by bigger carriers

JetBlue founder David Neeleman’s newest venture is ready for takeoff. 

Breeze Airways rolled out 39 new routes on Friday with a discounted special of $39 one-way fares. 

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The carrier is targeting secondary cities that are largely overlooked or abandoned by bigger carriers, and Neeleman says 95% of Breeze's early routes have no other nonstop flights.

Its first flights will connect Charleston, South Carolina; Tampa, Florida; and Hartford, Connecticut. Other destinations will be added each week through July 22, stretching from Providence, Rhode Island, to San Antonio, Texas, according to the company.

Breeze will start with 13 Embraer jets, some of which it is getting from another Neeleman airline, Brazil's Azul. Neeleman said in an interview that Breeze will achieve trip costs 20% to 25% less than those of bigger airlines, allowing it to serve smaller markets and still become profitable by year-end.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 47.48 -0.15 -0.31%
DAL DELTA AIR LINES, INC. 39.51 -0.23 -0.58%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS, INC. 46.65 -0.08 -0.17%

The new airline hopes its timing is right. U.S. air travel is recovering rapidly, although it remains about one-third below pre-pandemic levels. The plunge in travel means that used planes are plentiful and cheap, and there is a ready labor supply among pilots and other workers who lost their jobs at bigger airlines.

The airline had to retool one cost-saving tactic — a plan to hire college students as flight attendants and pay them $1,200 a month plus tuition help and company-provided housing. They could not remain flight attendants after leaving school, so this approach would prevent them from gaining seniority that leads to higher wages at other airlines. The largest union of flight attendants blasted the plan.

A Breeze spokesman said the airline wasn't attracting enough applicants. Breeze is now advertising for flight attendants without the current-student requirement, although it still has a partnership with a college in Utah to provide candidates.

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The Salt Lake City, Utah-based company is Neeleman’s fifth airline – it was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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  (Breeze Airways)

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REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker 

Aside from Breeze Airways and JetBlue, Neeleman has founded Morris Air -- which was bought by Southwest Airlines in 1993 -- WestJet and Azul Brazilian Airlines. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 14.74 +0.10 +0.68%

FOX Business' Ann Schmidt and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

This story, originally published on 2/4/21, has been updated.