Airlines are just barely beginning to recover, but investors seem to think there’s room for at least one more.
“It just says a lot about our plan and our people and our opportunity going forward,” said David Neeleman, the airline’s founder and CEO. “It solidifies our future, and we’re very excited about it.”
Breeze’s business model rests on offering flights between cities that tend not to be directly connected by other airlines. Its first flight was May 27, from Tampa, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina. The airline now offers 39 routes and flies to 16 cities, including New Orleans, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Akron, Ohio.
“It’s just easier to be successful when you have no competition,” Neeleman said.
He has founded five airlines, the most prominent of which is JetBlue Airways. That company started flying more than two decades ago with about $135 million in capital, he said. Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras, another airline he founded in Brazil, started more than a decade ago with $235 million.
Breeze’s funding round was led by BlackRock and Knighthead Capital Management, which also invested in Azul. The airline’s earlier investors, including Peterson Partners and Sandlot Partners, also contributed to the round.
Breeze, which is based in Salt Lake City, claims that it uses planes and technology more efficiently than other airlines, allowing it to offer lower fares. The airline currently flies 13 Embraer jets, and it will start receiving 60 new Airbus A220 planes in October at a pace of about one each month over the next five years. The airline hopes to have the first new Airbus planes in operation early next year, pending regulatory approvals.
The pandemic complicated Breeze’s launch, but it has helped in some ways, too. The company was able to buy planes more cheaply as other airlines reduced their fleets to cut costs. Like the rest of the industry, it has enjoyed strong demand this summer after widespread vaccinations in the spring, although recently travel has slowed somewhat with the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Breeze plans to dedicate at least two planes to full-time charter service, and the airline has identified 400 city pairs that align with its approach.
“We have a lot of great things, so having this capital in the bank, having this cushion is really good for us,” Neeleman said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.