Trip Report: The Breeze Airways Experience in California
One of my last bucket list items was to fly Breeze Airways after it started operations in early 2021. For those of you who don’t know, Breeze is the new venture from serial airline entrepreneur David Neeleman, who has found much success with airlines such as JetBlue, Azul, WestJet and Morris Air (acquired by Southwest in the 1980s).
Now, Neeleman has turned his attention to Breeze, a low-cost airline that primarily flies point-to-point services on small planes. In an industry as cutthroat as aviation is in the US, new airlines can be difficult to establish as there simply isn’t a large market. However, Breeze thinks it has what it takes. Breeze flies even more extreme than Southwest to very small airports and between mid-sized cities. The airline sells tickets at low prices and charges passengers additional fees for any accessories they want. In the beginning, Breeze only flew used Embraer E190 aircraft, but has now acquired Airbus A220-300s equipped with First Class.
I live in San Francisco and was thrilled when Breeze launched several routes from SFO last year. One of them, their six-weekly flight from San Francisco (SFO) to San Bernardino (SBD), cost $39 while I was on hiatus from college, so I decided to book it and spend a day in Southern California.
Origin: San Francisco (SFO)
Destination: San Bernardino (SBD)
Flight number: MX600
Airplane: Embraer E190
Aircraft registration: N115BZ
Travel date: Wednesday 18 January 2023
Departure time: 10:10 am
Arrival time: 11:35 am
Flight time: 1 hour 25 minutes
I paid for the flight in cash given the cheap price and checked Breeze’s website for the days when the fares were cheapest. As long as you book a few weeks in advance or fly on a less busy day during the week, finding those $39 fares should be fairly easy.
The fare got me a one-way flight to San Bernardino in their “nice” seats, which are essentially standard slimline economy seats with no frills. Only two classes of service are available on flights operated by Embraer E190 aircraft: Nice and Nice. “Nicer” sold for $64 and offered an extra legroom seat along with a snack and a drink. However, the base fare does not cover seat selection, so you have to pay extra to select a seat. I paid $15 to select a seat just behind the wing, which cost me $54 in total.
A week before departure, I noticed that Breeze had lowered the prices on select seats, so I quickly switched to a seat with more legroom for only $5. The beauty of Breeze is that you can select a seat anywhere on the plane, even if you book the Nice fare. In theory, you wouldn’t be guaranteed a snack and free water, but more on that later.
In total, I paid $59 to fly from San Francisco to San Bernardino in an extra legroom seat, which is about the cheapest price you can expect for a full-fare Southwest ticket on a comparable flight to Southern California .
At the airport
Breeze offers very few amenities at the SFO. They have dedicated check-in staff, but since I checked in online before arriving at the airport, I went straight to security. With my discounted Clear status through my parents’ American Express Platinum, security was a breeze (pun intended). I only got to the airport about 70 minutes before the scheduled departure time, but still had plenty of time before boarding.
Breeze uses Terminal 2 in San Francisco, which is currently shared by Breeze, Alaska, Delta and select United Airlines flights. Breeze usually doesn’t announce which gate will be used until the day of departure, so check the Breeze app in advance.
The plane boarded on time after arriving from Provo (PVU). My seat, 6A, was a nice window seat as seen below.
The padding itself was initially comfortable but became very uncomfortable over time. Ideally, I wouldn’t want to spend more than two hours in the seat. However, the legroom was quite comfortable and with no one sitting next to me I had plenty of room to spread out. The flight was only about 60% utilized – a sign that Breeze is still trying to gain market share in the competitive Northern California-Southern California flight market.
The “Nice” seats were identical in shape to the extra legroom seats, although they featured slightly less legroom and a yellow and black color scheme.
All seats across the Breeze fleet are not equipped with inflight entertainment. However, Breeze has been working to build a Wi-Fi system and allow passengers to stream to their devices. On this particular flight, Breeze had some streaming options, but I only counted 24 movies and 30 TV shows available, a far cry from the extensive options on airlines like Delta or United. Given that this flight only took 56 minutes from wheels to touchdown, I decided to spend the duration of the flight watching the real inflight entertainment, the amazing view out the window.
Breeze’s service is pretty rudimentary. I was immediately struck by the easygoing nature of the crew – I couldn’t really tell if any of them were wearing Breeze branded clothing, which was interesting.
All members were nice and did their job to make the passengers happy on this short flight. I was especially glad that I got a free snack and water even though I didn’t pay the “Nicer” rate. This gets me thinking – it’s entirely possible to book a “Nice” fare and select a seat with extra legroom and save up to $20+ by not paying the “Nicer” fare.
Passengers sitting on the “Nicer” seats with extra legroom received a Kind bar and mineral water. Note: I didn’t purchase the “Nicer” plan but was still able to get the free snack. Breeze offers a selection of snacks and drinks for purchase if you don’t want the free water for all passengers or the free snack for those sitting in the extra legroom seats. To my knowledge, the passengers seated in the “Nice” section have to request water if they want it.
All in all I had a very pleasant experience on Breeze. The fare was particularly cheap and I also had more legroom. While nothing about the experience feels as “premium” as Delta or Alaska, the flight was short and got me from point A to point B. I was especially grateful that we landed on time as my journey with Breeze was only one leg a huge transit adventure through Southern California for the day before flying home from LAX at night.
The biggest challenge Breeze faces right now is that the airline is not allowed to operate more than one flight per day in any of the markets it serves. Flight MX600 from SFO to SBD operates only six times per week, departing at 10:10 am daily. Unless you’re flying around at that time, Breeze really isn’t a viable option. Of course, you also need to go to San Bernardino, or at least close to San Bernardino, to take advantage of the cheap fare.
I would definitely fly Breeze again and flying into San Bernardino is definitely a lot easier than flying into a major airport like LAX. I’m particularly curious about the product Breeze has on their A220-300s that fly much longer routes, but that may have to wait when I return to college for the semester.