Breeze Airways launches at JIA, addresses rocky path

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Breeze Airways’ inaugural flight touched down at Jacksonville International Airport from Richmond, Virginia Thursday. It’s the first of what will soon be eight direct flights offered by the startup airline.

Breeze will fly non-stop to Columbus, New Orleans, Providence, Norfolk, Hartford, Westchester, and Las Vegas by September. However, most routes start in late May to early June.

The airline, which was founded by the same man who started JetBlue, has orders for one new aircraft expected to arrive every month for the next six years. The company expects to have 80 total aircraft in the next six years and serve destinations country-wide eventually.

But several media reports show the airline has had a bumpy ride to Jacksonville. Breeze scaled back flights in several other cities, sometimes within weeks of launching. It slashed flights in Charleston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and New Orleans to name a few.

Most recently, the airline canceled flights from Providence to Jacksonville. Breeze announced flights between both destinations in March and within weeks it canceled all scheduled flights in June.

The airline said it will fully refund customers or offer a chance to rebook.

Action News Jax’s Robert Grant asked one of the airline’s top directors at JIA Thursday about the issue.

“We tried to adjust our schedule based upon available crews, based upon available aircraft, and also we’re watching the fuel prices very carefully. So we did dial back a few flights temporarily. But long term after June, you’re going to see a lot of flights here to eight destinations,” Brian McCormick, the director of Airport Properties, Facilities & Contract Services, said.

In a statement to Twitter, the airline said in part, “Due to necessary government certification for our new planes, we’ve experienced some schedule changes in June.”

The airline is expected to get $1 million in city funding. A bill for the money is set to go before the council for its third reading on May 24.

A representative for the City of Jacksonville said it’s part of the airline’s agreement with JIA. The money will be used to reimburse Breeze for marketing used only on direct routes in and out of Jacksonville. The agreement lasts two years and comes from the city’s debt savings.

Action News Jax asked if there was concern about the airline’s history with scaled-back flights. We did not receive an answer.

“Everybody needs support. And when you start a new route you have to develop the air service, it’s a whole community approach and that’s the key, McCormick said. “Everyone wins if you can grow the market to Jacksonville.”

Visit Jacksonville CEO Michael Corrigan said it will improve tourism to Jacksonville.

“By giving them more choices; direct flight choices. That makes it more attractive for visitors to come — in this case from Richmond to Jacksonville.”

Flights can be booked here: Breeze Airways (flybreeze.com).

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