We recently flew Breeze Airways from Tampa (TPA) to Tulsa (TUL). Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of the airline, as it launched barely four months ago.
Our flight was on a random Monday morning after all of the new airline buzz had died down and the inauguration fanfare had passed. No AvGeeks, no suits, no tchotchkes. Just a new airline, new crew, and lots of bargain hunters looking to excise their pent-up travel demand. We sure love an inaugural. In fact, that’s how we found ourselves in Tampa to start with. But today’s review is less flashy. Rather, we hope this is what others can expect now that some of the initial excitement and “newness” has died down.
Booking with Breeze Airways
We found the Breeze Airways site (and app!) to be impressive for a brand new airline. In a word: Polished. Breeze offers just two fare options: Nice and Nicer. It’s a smart touch to market basic economy with a positive spin.
For our one-way from Tampa to Tulsa we chose the $84 fare, just on the basis of having a carry-on and wanting the extra legroom. It’s worth noting that the $39/$84 split on this particular route has persisted since launch. There are more expensive days, but seeing a launch fare remain for more than a few weeks is great in terms of setting pricing expectations and letting travelers spread the excitement of a new airline by word-of-mouth.
Flying Out of Tampa with Breeze Airways
Flying in to and out of Tampa is always a joy and this trip was no exception. It was not lost on me that my last visit to Tampa was onboard Citrus Flight 1 — the final AirTran flight — to experience firsthand the sunset of AirTran Airways. Later, I would learn that our Breeze flight would depart from the very gate where N717JL pulled in, bringing the Southwest integration of Tampa’s hometown airline to a close. But this was a new day. It was time for a new airline to shine.
Breeze launched as a “TSA PreCheck airline.” This stands in contrast to the other upstart airline on the west coast which began operations prior to Breeze but still doesn’t offer PreCheck. Historically, new airlines have taken some time to get through the process of becoming a TSA PreCheck partner. I would propose PreCheck benefits are of particular interest, as frequent travelers look to minimize the slow crowds and general hassle associated with the resurgence of leisure travel. The PreCheck line at TPA was as quick as one would expect at the 23rd-busiest airport in the U.S.
Boarding was not a bright spot. The gate agent didn’t space out group announcements. It felt as if the entire plane rushed to board at once. Thankfully the plane wasn’t quite full. The assurance of priority boarding, assigned seats, and reserved bin space alleviated any potential anxiety.
In-Flight Experience with Breeze Airways
A real perk of flying onboard Embraer planes — and soon, the Airbus A220 — is the option for two-seat sections. Calling Kansas City, MO home base, we spend almost all of our time on board 737s and A320 variants. The 3×3 layout has long been the norm for us, and we most always wind up with a stranger in our cluster. We welcome the diversity of the Breeze fleet and the opportunity to maintain a small bubble of personal space, particularly given the ongoing global pandemic.
We selected bulkhead seats which had plenty of legroom. I regret I didn’t think to measure, as I’ve been known to do. The seats were comfortable, and the belt length was generous. The safety cards were beautiful and stared at me for the duration of the flight. They insisted they come home with me. I somehow resisted their constant nagging.
Before takeoff, our Captain stood before the cabin and made some basic announcements. The presence and in-person engagement was appreciated. He brought good energy and set the tone for the duration of the “soft” portion of the flight. I would later deduce via some post-flight survey questions that there seems to be an expectation that a pilot be seen and engaged before takeoff. It was a nice touch and I’m glad this is a metric the airline chooses to measure itself on. I suspect seeing the pilot and hearing their relaxed, friendly tone could help relieve some jitters for anxious flyers.
There was no in-flight entertainment (IFE.) From my perspective that’s a non-issue. It seems I’m in the minority in not expecting seat-back IFE for a two-hour flight. If needed, I’m always happy to stare at one of the modern distraction rectangles I have lugged onboard anyway.
Snack service was efficient. The “nicer” fare included a soft drink, a bag of chips, and a KIND bar. We couldn’t help but notice the snack bar brand choice was another nod to their nicer way of doing things.
Breeze offered a compelling experience at an impressive price. It is clear that the airline’s leadership has invested a lot of thought and capital into entering the market with a competitive product from day one. The airline appears to be built upon solid technology. They seem to care a great deal about customer experience yet are somehow priced like any other ULCC. From booking through to the post-flight survey, we encountered touches of excellence and unexpected delights all along the way.
I hope for the future of the airline industry that Breeze sets the stage for its much larger peers to follow. If you haven’t flown them yet, you should.
Quick Thoughts From My Return to Long-Haul Flying