If you have not been aware of the increase in Breeze Airways, you probably should. Serial airline entrepreneur David Neeleman launched the airline earlier this year at a time when the future of air travel looked bleak.
But that has not been the case for Breeze. When air travel jumped back in the spring, the airline expanded to 16 destinations, mostly on the east coast, securing just $ 200 million in funding.
What does the arrival of Breeze mean for the aviation industry, and how can a “Breeze effect” affect your next flight? I asked Neeleman. Here is our interview.
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You just secured $ 200 million in funding for Breeze Airways. Congratulations. How did you cope during a pandemic?
Breeze is my fifth airline, so that would be a great track record, I suppose. But this is the right airline at the right time, and our investors can see that.
However, I have never started an airline just for fun. There must be a great opportunity. In this case, there are many secondary cities throughout the United States that no longer have access to direct flights. And not only does it take longer to fly through hubs, it is usually also more expensive. Investors recognize that our model will be truly successful, pandemic or not.
What will this funding allow you to do? How will it affect the customer experience?
It will affect the customer experience and much, much more. That means more fleet growth, more destinations and frequencies, more staff, more everything. But more than anything else, it means we have come to stay. That we have a war chest to withstand our bigger competitors if they should come after us.
Why America Needs Another Airline
Why does America need another airline? Are we not going through a period of airline consolidation?
But is the consumer best served by consolidation? Or by innovative startups recognizing a need in the market? I think that’s the last thing.
Fair point. I’m sure you’ve heard the joke that goes, “How do you make a million dollars in the airline industry? You start with a billion dollars.” What makes Breeze different?
Of our first 39 routes, only 5% had existing year-round service already in place. Breeze connects markets that are not currently served. And we know how to provide a great customer experience while keeping our costs really low. So we aim to start with a million dollars, or $ 300 million now, and eventually make it more than a billion.
Related: Executive contacts to Breeze Airways
Lessons from JetBlue
Your most famous launcher is JetBlue. How did startup inform JetBlue about what you do at Breeze? What experiences have you learned from the ups and downs of JetBlue?
When we launched JetBlue, it was the best capitalized startup in American aviation history. Now, 20 years later, Breeze is now again best capitalized, with double what we had at JetBlue.
But money is really just insurance for rainy days. The core of the company has always delivered what travelers want for a low price. And if you can do it while you are nicest, you are unsurpassed.
I would like to ask you about Azul, which was your next action after JetBlue. You went a bit off the radar of your American audience. What happened in Brazil, and what made you return to the States to try another airline?
Azul is a great airline that broke many of JetBlue’s records. It was even voted the best in the world and is the largest airline in Brazil that always changes flights there. So Azul was my focus for many years, but I still lived in the US As I said before, I only do it again in the US because the market needs are so obvious.
How technology will improve the flying experience
You have always been an early adopter when it comes to technology. What role does technology play in Breeze, and how does it differentiate the airline from its competitors?
The best thing about starting brand new is that you do not inherit all the old-school technology that many other airlines still use. You start with the latest and greatest.
We have e.g. Not a toll-free phone number as airlines cannot keep up with passenger demand. This summer, we heard about airlines having a 41-hour wait! Can you imagine?
Our guests just send us their questions and they get answers right back. Even at our busiest times, the average response is less than 20 minutes. It’s a good indication of how we use technology across the airline to do things differently. Take a look at the app. It is so easy, fast and simple and anyone can use it to enhance their best travel experience.
What should your customers expect from Breeze? What should they not also expect?
Fast and convenient travel at a low price. As the ad says, we are nice, new and nonstop.
But that’s just the beginning. We are introducing the all-new Airbus A220s in 2022 and expanding our national footprint to transcontinental services. We have only just begun.
How the airline industry can do better
Have you flown with other airlines since the pandemic? If so, what do you think about the experience? And specifically, I would ask you: How can the industry do better for their customers?
Absolutely. It’s a sleek experience right now, but the industry is doing what it takes to keep passengers and crew safe. Each airline decides the best course of action to make it better for their customers. It is not a size that fits everyone.
What do you want Breeze to be known for?
Neatness. That we offer a good price, nonstop wherever you go, with people who care about your experience.