US start-up carrier Breeze Airways is banking on the imminent introduction of additional range capacity for the Airbus A220-300, announced in March.
The new range capacity is merely a “paper change” – the result of Airbus locating an “additional margin availability” – according to vice-president of single-aisle marketing Antonio Da Costa, and will come into effect via a service bulletin that remains, as of now, not yet published.
Breeze Airways founder and chief executive David Neeleman has welcomed the announcement, and said the new airline will take full advantage of the jet’s new range.
While Airbus is yet to release the service bulletin that will allow operators to utilise this additional range on its A220-300s, Neeleman is confident that said bulletin will be released shortly.
“It is under way, so we are … kind of arguing about when. But it is not a matter of ‘if’, it is just a matter of ‘when’,” Neeleman said.
As it currently stands, the A220-300 flies up to 3,400 nautical miles, however Neeleman said, “we need to get up to 4,000 [nautical] miles”, implying perhaps even more leeway will be offered under the upcoming service bulletin.
In March, Airbus announced it was able to increase the A220-300s range by up to 200 nautical miles, by increasing the jet’s maximum take-off weight (MTOW) to 70.9 tonnes. The ability to carry said additional weight allows the aircraft to carry more fuel, which then extends its range.
In response to Neeleman’s comments on the matter, an Airbus spokesperson said simply: “We are always working with our customers and listening to their fleet needs, and we don’t comment on the status of our confidential discussions.”
Neeleman, an industry veterain who previously co-founded a number of airline ventures including JetBlue, WestJet, Morris Air and Azul Linhas Aereas, founded Breeze in 2018.
In July 2018, the airline signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for the purchase of 60 of its 130-seat A220-300 aircraft, a deal that was officially penned in January 2019.
However reports surfaced last month that suggested the airline had placed an order for an additional 20 jets, bringing its total order to 80.
The order matches up with that of an ‘undisclosed buyer’ from Airbus’ March orders and deliveries report, with sources later linked to Breeze, though neither Breeze nor Airbus have publicly confirmed the new order.
With a total of 80 jets, this latest order reportedly makes Breeze Airways the world’s second-biggest A220 customer after Delta Air Lines – overtaking Neeleman’s previous airline JetBlue by 10 orders.
Breeze is expecting to welcome its first A220s in October 2021, and yet is gearing up to officially launch its first flights amid the lucrative US summer travel season utilising its fleet of second-hand Embraer 190 and 195 aircraft – many of which are being subleased from Neeleman’s Brazilian venture, Azul.
Neeleman has said his new airline will focus on non-stop short-haul and underserviced leisure routes for the summer, and reduce travel times by avoiding major hubs.
According to Neeleman, around 80 per cent of Breeze’s planned summer routes face no competition.
“So, what happens in that case is that you generate maybe six, seven, eight, up to 10 times more traffic than you actually take from everyone else,” he said.
“If you’re in a really small market, we’re not talking about just medium-sized markets, we’re talking about small markets, where maybe you connect through a hub and it would have taken you three hours to get there. Now we can get you there in an hour and 15 minutes.”
Neeleman said that once it takes delivery of its first A220s later this year, the airline will tackle longer domestic routes.
The airline chief executive noted that while costs for second-hand Embraer jets have taken a dive during the pandemic, the Airbus models will be cheaper to operate long-term.
However, he said that the airline intends to keep both aircraft in its fleet going forward.