A startup that promises to turn the airline industry on its ear announced that its innovative approach will include service to Northwest Arkansas National Airport.
Breeze Airways takes off from XNA on June 17, offering nonstop flights to Tampa. That’ll be followed by Breeze’s nonstop service from XNA to New Orleans and San Antonio, starting July 15.
The airline will provide year-round service to each of those cities four times a week, departing on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Today’s announcement by Breeze is arguably the biggest new air service announcement in XNA’s 22 years.
While the model of less-than-daily service by Breeze matches the approach used by Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Air on its trips from XNA, its planes are far different. Breeze will use 108- and 118-seat Embraers, making them much different than the 180-seat Airbuses flown by Frontier and Allegiant.
The announcement by Breeze provides XNA with three new nonstop destinations that have never been served from Northwest Arkansas. It’ll push the number of nonstop destinations from XNA from 18 to 21. Not all 18 of those routes are being flown during the Covid-19 pandemic, including New York LaGuardia, Minneapolis/St. Paul and San Francisco.
While Breeze is new, its leadership is as veteran as they come. Its president and CEO is entrepreneur David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue, Azul Brazilian Airlines, Morris Air and WestJet. A March headline in the Deseret News referred to him as “Utah’s Steve Jobs of the Skies.”
Neeleman in newspaper interviews in the past year has described Breeze as having three primary goals. He wants the low-cost carrier to fly some of the nation’s underserved airline routes. He initially sought out college-aged flight attendants as employees, offering them the opportunity to pursue a college degree while working for Breeze. And, he wants Breeze to become the world’s nicest airline, describing Breeze as a technology company that happens to fly planes in some interviews.
Those in the airline industry believe Neeleman has built an outstanding leadership team, praising the hiring of Lukas Johnson away from Allegiant Air to be the chief commercial officer. It’s believed Allegiant’s long-term success at XNA was noted by Johnson, and it’s among the reasons Northwest Arkansas service became a consideration. XNA’s record-breaking 922,000 passengers in 2019 and projections that the region’s population will approach 1 million people by 2045 certainly didn’t hurt when it came to attracting Breeze.
The pandemic has reduced air travel nationwide since March 2020, but airlines are seeing more and more passengers and they are rapidly adding more flights. There’s long been an expectation that vaccinated passengers will flood into airports, taking advantage of the lower-than-usual airfares being charged by many airlines. That surge is recognized as “pent-up demand,” and airlines are banking on a massive increase in travel this summer.
Pictured at the top: The restaurants, bars and rich history of the Bourbon Street area in New Orleans makes the city a hit with tourists. Photo provided by NewOrleans.com.