Forget friendly skies, how this JetBlue founder’s new airline vows to be ‘seriously nice’

Sleek and simple are terms that come up repeatedly when David Neeleman, JetBlue founder and veteran airline startup entrepreneur, talks about his latest venture, Breeze Airways.

On Friday, Breeze announced it had secured its final federal approvals and is launching service that will grow to 16 cities in the next few months, providing 39 nonstop routes to destinations in the Southwest, Midwest, Southeast and East.

Breeze is Neeleman’s fifth airline startup, having previously launched JetBlue, onetime Utah-based provider Morris Air, Canada’s WestJet and Brazil’s Azul Airlines.

Utah’s ‘Steve Jobs of the Skies’ is ready to do it again

This time around, Neeleman is shooting for providing service that connects cities in secondary market airports, pushing back against a long-running industry bent toward concentrating operations and flights at select hub facilities. And Breeze is embracing a slew of tech tools and flexibility options that, along with lower prices and a customer-centric business approach, Neeleman believes will make his newest airline venture standout among competitors.

“Together, we created Breeze as a new airline merging technology with kindness,” Neeleman said in a statement. “Breeze provides nonstop service between underserved routes across the U.S. at affordable fares. 

“A staggering 95% of Breeze routes currently have no airline serving them nonstop. With seamless booking, no change or cancellation fees, up to 24-months of reusable flight credit and customized flight features delivered via a sleek and simple app, Breeze makes it easy to buy and easy to fly.”

The latest airline startup from JetBlue founder and industry veteran David Neeleman, Breeze Airways, will offer non-stop service to and from 16 smaller market airports. The new U.S. carrier, headquartered in Salt Lake City, announced Friday it had earned final approval from federal officials and is set to begin service. | Breeze Airways

The company said the first Breeze flights will operate between Charleston, South Carolina, Tampa, Florida, and Hartford, Connecticut, starting May 27. Remaining destinations will be added each week through July 22. Breeze announced flights are currently on sale at and the Breeze app with prices starting at just $39 one-way, with some restrictions.

Breeze announced it will begin operations with 13 single-class Embraer aircraft this summer, flying routes with an average flight length under two hours. The 10, E190 jets will be configured to seat 108 passengers while the three E195 aircraft will have 118 seats. Passengers may choose from fares that include “nice” regular seating, or “nicer” seats with extra leg room. All Embraer aircraft will be a two-by-two seat configuration, so there are no middle seats.

Breeze reports it has also has ordered 60 new Airbus A220 aircraft that will be delivered one per month for five years, starting in October. The A220 routes, which will be announced this fall, all will be longer than two hours. The A220s will include a premium cabin, ‘nicest,’ in a two-by-two configuration at the front of the plane. The remainder of the aircraft will feature a two-by-three seat configuration.

Neeleman said that while he would have liked to have seen Breeze clear FAA approvals a few weeks ago, he still sees the timing of his new airlines’ market entry, coinciding with a resurgence in air travel as more vaccinations are complete in the U.S., as very opportune.

“There’s clearly a ton of pent-up demand,” Neeleman said. “And we’re excited to be flying.”

Utah native David Neeleman stands at his home in Deer Valley on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In a recent Deseret News profile story, Neeleman talked about the strategies underlying his latest venture.

Breeze, he said, is based on three concepts: Fly routes that others don’t; use young college aged kids as flight attendants while Breeze helps put them through school; and become the world’s “nicest” airline.

It is Breeze’s intent to connect smaller and mid-size cities with nonstop service.

“We feel there are literally hundreds of routes we can serve, where people can get places quicker for less money,” Neeleman said.

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Using college students as flight attendants stems from Neeleman watching too many flight attendants over the years work for perennially low wages well past retirement — and burnout — age. Too often, “it’s a career that keeps you on the road as life slowly passes you by,” he said.

His vision is a Breeze Airlines college scholarship program. Breeze will pay the tuition and expenses of qualified young people as they work as Breeze flight attendants while concurrently pursuing their degrees via online study. It will allow them to travel and see the world while they’re young, and once they graduate they can move on to the career of their choice.

He’s started a pilot program with Utah Valley University and is exploring affiliating with Southern Utah University and others. While the Breeze headquarters is in Cottonwood Heights, Neeleman said there are no current plans to offer service in the state.

As for being nice, Neeleman believes that is the foundation of all business, or should be. “If we say we’re the nicest airline, that’s not overpromising. It’s a message to our passengers and a message to our people. That’s what we do. That’s who we are.”

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