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Breeze Airways, a new budget airline from the founder of JetBlue, took off Thursday with flights concentrated in the southeastern U.S.
The airline, whose launch was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic that devastated travel, initially plans to offer flights to and from four airports: Tampa, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans; and Norfolk, Virginia.
The first flights, beginning in late May in time for Memorial Day travel are Tampa-Charleston; Tampa-Louisville, Kentucky; Charleston-Hartford, Connecticut; Charleston-Tampa, and Charleston-Louisville.
Additional flights will be added in June and July, giving Breeze 39 nonstop routes between 16 cities as far east as Providence, Rhode Island, and as far west as San Antonio, Texas, this summer.
Tickets went on sale last week on the airline's website and start at $39 each way on all routes. They are introductory fares, and the cheapest seats will be limited, especially given the rebound in travel and Breeze's limited flight schedule. The airline is not offering daily service on any routes, with four times a week the highest frequency.
Breeze is the second US airline to start during the pandemic
Breeze will be the second U.S. airline to launch this year, joining Avelo Airlines, which debuted in late April.
Breeze CEO David Neeleman, who ran airlines in South America after being ousted as JetBlue CEO more than a decade ago, said there is an untapped market in the U.S. for nonstop flights between small cities.
The airline's informal mantra: "We'll get you there twice as fast for half the price.''
If that sounds a lot like budget airline Allegiant, it's by design. Neeleman calls Allegiant's track record of luring travelers who would otherwise drive or connect through a major airline's hub "amazing.'' (Avelo is Allegiant-esque, too, its founder the airline's former president.)
Meet Avelo Airlines: New US airline has $19 fares, $10 checked bags and flies out of small airports
"They go into a market where five people a day are traveling between a route, and the next thing you know there's 100 people,'' he said.
Neeleman recently met a loyal Allegiant passenger who lives in Appleton, Wisconsin, and has a second home in Gilbert, Arizona, closer to the small Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport than Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which is dominated by American and Southwest. He's a regular on the airline's nonstop Appleton-Mesa flight.
"I said, well would you ever fly anyone but Allegiant?'' he said. "He looked me at like I was crazy. He goes, 'Why would I fly anyone but Allegiant?' ''
Neeleman said Breeze has significantly lower costs than Allegiant and other competitors thanks to a number of factors, including smaller planes. The airline is starting with 13 Embraer regional jets, 10 with 108 seats and the rest with 118 seats. Allegiant uses Airbus A320s with up to 186 seats, and Avelo flies 189-seat Boeing 737s.
Like Avelo, Breeze has benefited from cheaper prices to buy or lease airplanes and lower prices for parts because of the pandemic.
All combine to enable Breeze to fly even shorter routes with cheap tickets and make money, Neeleman said.
He said Breeze won't be stealing from the competition on most routes because it will be the only airline with service. The airline says 95% of its routes have no nonstop competition.
"We're going to generate 10 times more people than we’ll ever take from anyone else,'' he said. "If you're sitting in Columbus, Ohio, and you want to go to Charleston, South Carolina, and can do it for 69 bucks then you're just going to go. You're going to go more often.''
Breeze Airways flights for summer 2021 to and from Tampa, Charleston, New Orleans and Norfolk
Tampa, Florida, to and from, and service start date:
Charleston, South Carolina: May 27
Louisville, Kentucky: May 28
Tulsa, Oklahoma: June 4
Norfolk, Virginia: June 10
Bentonville/Fayetteville, Arkansas: June 17
Akron/Canton, Ohio: June 26
Oklahoma City: July 1
Columbus, Ohio: July 3
Huntsville, Alabama: July 22
Richmond, Virginia: July 22
Charleston to and from, with start date:
Hartford, Connecticut: May 27
Tampa: May 27
Louisville: May 28
Norfolk: June 10
Akron/Canton: July 8
Columbus: July 8
New Orleans: July 8
Pittsburgh, July 8
Richmond: July 8
Huntsville: July 15
Providence, Rhode Island: July 22
New Orleans to and from, with start date:
Charleston: July 8
Akron/Canton: July 15
Bentonville/Fayetteville: July 15
Huntsville: July 15
Louisville: July 15
Norfolk: July 15
Oklahoma City: July 15
Richmond: July 15
Tulsa: July 15
Columbus, Ohio: July 16
Norfolk to and from, with start date:
Charleston: June 10
Tampa: June 10
New Orleans: July 15
Columbus: July 22
Hartford: July 22
Pittsburgh: July 22
Providence: July 29
Other new Breeze flights starting in July
San Antonio-Bentonville/Fayetteville: July 15
San Antonio-Oklahoma City: July 15
San Antonio-Tulsa: July 15
Hartford-Columbus: July 22
Hartford-Pittsburgh: July 22
Providence-Pittsburgh: July 29
Short flights now, longer routes on the way later this year
Most of Breeze's new flights are under two hours.
The airline plans to announce additional, longer flights between larger cities in the fall using another plane, the Airbus 220.
It has 60 of the planes on order but has not announced how many seats it will offer. Unlike Breeze's initial flights on the Embraer regional jets, those flights will have business class and Wi-Fi.
8 things to know about Breeze Airways
► No middle seats, at least initially. There are no middle seats on its Embraer regional jets.
► Bag fees are $20 whether you carry on or check. (Passengers are allowed one free personal item that fits underneath the seat, the practice at other low-cost airlines.)
► Advance seat assignments start at $10. Families will not be charged to sit together, the airline says.
► There's no Wi-Fi, but passengers will be able to stream 150 free TV shows (not live TV as on JetBlue) on their personal devices from an inflight entertainment system. Wi-Fi and business class will be offered on future Breeze flights operated with a bigger plane.
► Kind bars and Utz snacks are on the inflight menu.
► Some of its flight attendants are Utah college students under a partnership with Utah Valley University. The airline had planned to hire all flight attendants this way but scrapped that plan recently because of low interest.
► The airline's initial name was Moxy.
► The airline's founder, Neeleman, also founded or co-founded Morris Air, (which was purchased by Southwest Airlines); JetBlue; WestJet; and Azul, a Brazilian carrier.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Breeze Airways flights, fares, fleet: New airline takes off