Breeze Airways launched the first of 18 transcontinental routes in May using its swanky new Airbus A220 jet.
The plane features both economy and first class, which is rare for low-cost carriers.
Insider flew with CEO David Neeleman from Richmond to San Francisco to check out its premium cabin.
Breeze Airways is one of the US' newest airlines, having launched its first-ever flight on May 27, 2021.
The carrier was founded by airline mogul David Neeleman, who also founded JetBlue Airways, Brazil-based Azul, Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet, and Morris, which merged with Southwest Airlines.
Breeze started service with Embraer 190 and 195 aircraft, flying between medium-sized markets that did not have nonstop service, like Charleston to Hartford, Connecticut.
The airline's slogan is "we can get you there twice as fast for half the price," according to Neeleman.
Since its inaugural flight, the budget airline has been growing its business with new routes, bases, and aircraft. In February, Breeze added Hartford as a base, which joined Norfolk, New Orleans, Tampa, and Charleston.
In May, the carrier started flying its newest aircraft type: the Airbus A220.
The first-ever A220 flight flew from Tampa to Richmond, Virginia, on May 25, marking the official debut of the new plane. The aircraft flew the company's maiden transcontinental flight from Richmond to San Francisco later the same day.
The flight is one of 18 transcontinental routes Breeze will operate this summer using the new jet. Each A220 will have a first class cabin, while its Embraer planes will only have economy.
Currently, the carrier has 80 A220s on order with an option for 40 more. One jet per month will be delivered over the next six years, meaning Breeze will have 13 A220s in its fleet by the end of 2022.
"The A220-300 is a game-changer for us as we can now serve guests coast-to-coast!" Neeleman said. "The A220 offers travelers the widest cabin, highest ceiling, largest windows, and biggest overhead stowage in this class, while still managing to burn 25% less fuel, with half the noise footprint of past generations.”
Insider flew with Neeleman, Airbus' VP of marketing Americans, Matthew Saks, and other members of the Breeze team from Richmond to San Francisco in first class on Wednesday. Here's what it was like.
My journey started at Richmond International Airport at 7:30 a.m., which was about an hour before my 8:35 a.m. departure.
The check-in area for Breeze was located at the far end of the departures level. Here, passengers can check their luggage and get their boarding pass.
However, there were no kiosks, which was disappointing. So, for travelers without checked bags, like myself, I found it easier to check in on the mobile app and head straight to security.
I cleared the checkpoint in about five minutes and walked a short distance to gate A5 which Breeze uses. Here, there was Breeze branding and a bag size checker for carry-on luggage.
The gate area was small, but there was enough room for the up to 137 passengers that can fit on the A220.
Breeze's A220s come in two configurations — the initial version with 126 seats and the future aircraft that will have 137 seats. The difference between the two is the number of first class and extra-legroom seats.
My flight to San Francisco was on the initial configuration. Walking on, I immediately noticed the elegant flooring design at the entrance and the jet even had that new plane smell.
On the long flight, I flew in first class, which was one of the nicest domestic premium seats I've ever flown in. It was amenity-heavy and felt more modern than competitor products.
It actually reminded me of United's Polaris Premium seats that are on its Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft.
Each lounger has 39 inches of pitch and 20.5 inches of width, which was more than enough space since I'm only 5'3" and on the smaller side.
Larger travelers and passengers soaring above six feet should have no issue in the giant seat.
In addition to being spacious, the first class seat did not skimp on comfort. Specifically, there was a leg rest and deep recline...
…and an adjustable headrest. The wings folded in for support and the headrest could be slid up for taller passengers.
Other amenities include power plugs and USB ports...
…a coat hook…
…a storage compartment…
…large seatback pockets easily big enough to hold my laptop…
…and two small shelves shared between the seats.
Each seat also features a large tray table that opens from the armrest in between the two loungers. Travelers can work or use the phone stand to stream media.
Unfortunately, there was no WiFi on the flight. However, Neeleman said the feature would be available in September, though the price is still undecided.
When settling into my seat, I noticed the aisle loungers have a metal piece that splits the under-seat space in half. I couldn't fit my backpack in the space, so travelers in those seats will need to stow larger personal items in the overhead.
We pushed back from the gate about 10 minutes late, but we were able to make up time in the air to get to San Francisco on schedule. On the taxi out, we got a water salute from the airport, which was a unique experience.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendants started the inflight service.
Breeze has several snacks and drinks available for purchase, like Pringles, M&Ms, coffee, tea, soda, water, and alcohol.
According to Breeze, the drinks and snacks are complimentary for travelers who purchase a Nicest or Nicer fare.
The Nice fare must pay for drinks and snacks, though water is free.
For my flight, I opted for a vodka cranberry drink...
...and fudge brownie M&Ms. The Kind bar was also complimentary, and first class passengers get one free alcoholic beverage on each flight. Travelers can buy additional alcohol.
I was disappointed in the food options for such a long flight. The ride from Richmond leaves at 8:35 a.m. and flies straight through lunchtime, meaning I was snacking until I was able to get a larger meal at the San Francisco airport.
However, Neeleman told Insider that larger meals were planned for the future. I hope the carrier adds options like sandwiches or salads.
After the inflight service, I worked on my laptop. The leg rest and large armrests made for a perfect working environment, despite the lack of WiFi.
When taking a break from work, I was able to prop my phone on the seatback and stream a TV show. My phone screen is small, so I'll be sure to bring my iPad on my next flight.
The perfect weather over the Rocky Mountains also provided great views from above.
I was also able to sleep after a few hours of working, and the headrest, recline, and leg rest made for a comfortable nap. For someone who rarely sleeps on planes — even when flying in premium cabins — I was surprised how well I slept.
Halfway through the journey, I made my way to one of the three bathrooms onboard Breeze's A220. I used one in the back of the plane, which was pretty small.
However, there was just enough room to move around and it also had a baby-changing table.
After 5.5 hours of flying, we landed in San Francisco around 11:30 a.m. local time.
Overall, the flight was enjoyable and comfortable. It was my first-ever flight on an A220 and I loved the modern feel of the aircraft. The first class seats were plush and the engines were quiet compared to other narrowbody jets.
After the experience, Breeze's A220 has become one of my new favorite planes to fly on, especially since its first class product was well-thought-out with the customer in mind.
However, one concern is the lack of inflight entertainment. There were no seatback TVs or streaming available, though Neeleman said the plan is to add streaming to personal devices in the future.
The company already has its inflight entertainment portal, called BreezeOnboard, installed on its Embraer fleet. This is similar to mainline carriers like American Airlines.
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