Utah’s newest airline has been officially cleared for takeoff, but it won’t offer any destinations in the West — at least for now.
Cottonwood Heights-based Breeze Airways’ initial travel network, unveiled Friday, includes 39 nonstop routes to 16 cities, mostly in the East and Southeast.
Most flights will focus on four hubs: Tampa, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; New Orleans; and Norfolk, Va. Breeze’s first flights will start carrying passengers May 27.
Breeze is the fifth airline launched by Utah native David Neeleman, who also founded Morris Air (acquired by Southwest Airlines in 1993), JetBlue Airways, Azul Airlines in Brazil, and WestJet in Canada.
Neeleman said in an interview that Breeze eventually will offer service to and from Utah, possibly from smaller regional airports such as Ogden-Hinckley, Provo or St. George.
“We’ll be somewhere flying out of Utah probably next year,” Neeleman said. “There are just so many opportunities in the East right now. It’s where we’re starting, but no doubt we’ll get to Utah at some point in time.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation granted approval in March for the new airline to begin flights using up to 22 planes.
Breeze’s focus is on underserved markets, coupled with affordable fares, using smaller planes to cut costs. Its introductory one-way rates start at $39, with no change or cancellation fees.
Travelers can make changes up to 15 minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure. The airline will credit funds from those changes or cancellations to a customer’s account for up to 24 months.
The airline’s base fares include a personal item, such as a backpack or purse. Carry-on and checked luggage cost a flat rate of $20 for each item, up to three pieces of baggage. Travelers can also pay extra for more legroom, seat assignments, priority boarding, snacks and beverages.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and its chilling effect on travel over the past year, Neeleman said it was a “great” time to open Breeze for business, especially after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began easing restrictions for vaccinated individuals. (Masks are still required, however, on planes and in airports.)
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” Neeleman said. “Basically, if you’re vaccinated, you’re free to go.”
Although Breeze’s fleet won’t be serving Utah right out of the gate, the airline brings other perks to the state. Neeleman said he expects to employ “hundreds” of people, including work-from-home customer service jobs, technology teams and operations personnel.
“We’ll get into the thousands as time goes on,” Neeleman said.
In December 2020, Breeze announced a partnership with Orem’s Utah Valley University for a flight attendant training program. UVU students will be able to work and receive a salary as flight attendants, along with perks like tuition reimbursement, free housing and a trip home every month to visit family.
“You get to live in some cool places, have a great experience while you’re going to school,” Neeleman said, “and graduate with no debt.”
He added that he’s looking to add other Utah schools to the flight attendant partnership as well. The ability to recruit talent, along with Utah’s tech sector, are among the reasons Neeleman opted to make Utah Breeze’s headquarters for operations.
“If you take away the technology from the whole process of running the airlines,” Neeleman noted, “the booking process for the customer, the operations side, everything” then a carrier cannot function.