Breeze Airways is being “Seriously Nice” about connecting small airports
David Neeleman just doesn’t seem to tire of building new airlines from scratch. With his fifth airline, Breeze Airways—headquartered in Cottonwood Heights, Utah—Neeleman is on a mission to connect airports in previously underserved cities for low prices, all while operating as “the world’s nicest airline.”
Just months before all air travel screeched to a halt, Neeleman spoke about his career in the airline industry at the 2020 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit. A final name for the new airline hadn’t yet been chosen, and Breeze was still being referred to as “Moxy.”
Neeleman explains how two of his other airlines—JetBlue and Azul—had become successful by prioritizing kindness. According to Neeleman, the key differentiating factor in JetBlue’s success is customer service.
“JetBlue is a customer service company that happens to fly airplanes,” Neeleman said at the Summit. “What we’re calling ‘Code Name: Moxy’ is a technology company that happens to fly airplanes. Our aspirational goal is to build a super app where you can do everything.”
As expressed in the tagline “Seriously Nice,” kindness is one of Breeze’s five core values—second only to the number one value of safety. And while Breeze promotes kindness among its employees and customers, the airline industry has seen a rise in customer rudeness, including an unprecedented increase in the rates of unruly passengers this year. The FAA reported 950 investigations into passenger incidents initiated during 2021 so far, which is more than three times the amount seen in the past 25 years.
Breeze wants travelers to be able to visit small airports without having to book a connecting flight, cutting down both the travel time and cost for the customer. Many of these smaller cities have been ignored by airlines because the profit margins are too small to successfully offer customers reasonable rates. Breeze aims to increase those margins by lowering operating costs. Through automation, the company will reduce the number of personnel required. Customers will be able to handle changes to their trips through an app.
“We’re using a ton of technology,” Neeleman says. “All of our systems talk to each other, so we don’t need data entry people. We don’t need big call centers with thousands of people.”
Breeze is also keeping costs low by leasing Embraer Jets from Azul rather than purchasing an all-new fleet of aircraft.
“The thing that’s going to benefit us is that we have really low trip costs—very low capital costs on the airplanes,” Neeleman said in an interview with The Points Guy. “Because the Embraers are being obsoleted somewhat, we can get parts for really cheap, cents on the dollar, so maintenance costs are low.”
After starting five major businesses within the same city, many entrepreneurs would worry about creating their own competition. But Neeleman has excelled in finding markets within the airline industry that have not yet been reached by any other companies. “The United States has become more concentrated, and small cities have been really left out,” he says.
Breeze Airlines will be Neeleman’s most well-funded airline to date. In August, the company raised $200 million from investors, bringing the company’s total capital to over $300 million. Breeze intends to use its recent funding to improve the value they provide to customers, and Neeleman would like to expand its service to offer flights to more cities. The company plans to accomplish that with its purchase of 80 new Airbus A220s, a larger aircraft that extends the maximum flight distance up to 3,400 miles.
“I know a lot of guys will get funded for $235 million and say, ‘OK, let’s go find a headquarters, let’s get oak-paneled walls, let’s build an executive suite,” Neeleman said in a YouTube video when his previous airline venture, Azul, achieved $235 million in funding. “But those are things you have to look at and say, you know, resources are scarce. Let’s look at things that benefit our crew members or our customers. And if it’s not, let’s not do it.”
Breeze’s first new airbus arrived in October. The company will receive one new aircraft each month through 2028—meaning more “Seriously Nice” options will become available to travelers all over the country.
“It just says a lot about our plan and our people and our opportunity going forward,” Neeleman said in an interview. It solidifies our future, and we’re very excited about it.”