Breeze Airways – the US startup airline previously known as Moxy – is looking to offer a fully lie-flat business class seat on its Airbus A220 jets, which will begin flying in early 2021.
While Breeze expects to launch before the end of 2020, its initial fleet will be all-economy class Embraer E195 jets with around 120 seats, although the front rows will be an 'economy plus' extra legroom section.
April 2021 will see Breeze add the Airbus A220, with both premium economy-style recliners and flatbed seat under consideration for business class (or in US domestic parlance, first class).
However, lie-flat beds are likely to emerge the winner, especially as Breeze founder and CEO David Neeleman also launched JetBlue, whose Mint 'premium class' electrified the US domestic market with lie-flat beds and, in the case of the 'solo' seats which alternated with paired seats, a sliding suite-style door.
Neeleman says Breeze is working with a leading seatmaker to develop the all-new seat, which will also boast a modular design so they can be be quickly and efficiently removed between flights to suit the needs and economics of different routes.
A flexible first class
“The configuration on the A220 is flexible," Neeleman says. "We can do 145 coach seats with extra legroom in the front, or take out seats before the exit and put in 36 first class seats if we want to."
Those premium seats wouldn't have a personal video screen, so as to facilitate their speedy removal and re-installation: Breeze will beam movies, TV shows and music to passengers' own devices over WiFi, with inflight Internet also on the menu.
Neeleman, a serial airline entrepreneur who also kick-started Canada's WestJet and Brazil's Azul, promises Breeze will be "the world's nicest airline" and be low-cost “but not austere."
Fares will begin with a 'basic economy' package topped by optional add-ons selected via the Breeze app – including legroom, inflight meals, additional baggage and even upgrades to business class.
Small to mid-sized cities the focus
The Embraer E195 and Airbus A220 jets will be rolled out across an ambitious (and for now, under wraps) network of point-to-point routes, initially targetting under-served US city pairs which currently don't have any direct flights, and often relying on secondary airports.
"Breeze will fly non-stop service between places currently without meaningful or affordable service," Neeleman says, and deliver "low-fare, high-quality nonstop flights, with new consumer technology innovations, improving the flying experience while saving travelers both time and money."
The nimble E195s will focus on connecting smaller cities, ideally for flights of up to two hours, with the A220s carving a corridor for mid-size markets. “They are separate missions – one is an apple and one is an orange,” Neeleman explains. “Those planes will never fly on the same route. They won’t be in the same universe, really."
Asked if Breeze was likely to launch with a nationwide set of destinations or go with a more regional approach, Neeleman said “probably more regionally. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”
"We’ll (also) go to larger cities, but from cities that don’t have any service. I don’t think we’re going to fly a single route anybody is flying on. There’s no reason to fly to places that already have competition."
As Breeze takes delivery of more Airbus A220s – it has ordered 60 up front, and has pencilled in a second tranche of 60 more – Neeleman says he expects to add trans-continental routes between the east and west coasts, as well as to South America and Europe – but with a continued focus on tapping into smaller markets where the A220 could give Breeze a cost-effective edge against the larger Airbus A321 or twin-aisle jets flown by its competitors.
“We can fly them to Europe, we can fly them to South America, even to Hawaii," Neeleman says of the A220. "We can do a lot of different things with that airplane.”