After making do with smaller planes for its launch earlier this year, Breeze Airways on Tuesday collected its first Airbus SE A220, with novel plans to change the capacity of its premier cabin as the seasons change.
The startup carrier expects to have three dozen business-class seats in the initial configuration but will change that count in rapid makeovers to as few as 12 seats to accommodate shifting demand.
“We’re going to experiment with it, we’re going to see how it goes,” Chief Executive David Neeleman said at Airbus’s Mobile, Alabama, assembly plant. Most U.S. airlines keep their cabin layouts stable.
Neeleman, who founded Breeze, said other carriers price their premium cabins in ways that limit demand. He hopes to encourage passengers to trade up to plusher seats with more legroom by charging just $50 or so above the economy fare.
The A220 is the first new airplane to enter Breeze’s fleet. The Utah-based airline began flying in May with used Embraer SA E190 regional jets.
The Airbus jet’s range of more than 3,400 nautical miles, allowing for flights of longer than seven hours, is central to Neeleman’s business plan. Those specs will enable Breeze to cross the Atlantic and reach parts of South America. Neeleman said he hopes Airbus eventually will offer a 4,000-mile version, something he’s discussing with the planemaker.
Breeze will begin passenger flights with the A220 in the second quarter after satisfying regulatory conditions and will continue operating Embraer aircraft. The carrier expects to have 15 of the Airbus plane in service by the end of next year and has 80 on order.
Sales have recovered from a summer slowdown caused caused by the coronavirus delta variant, Neeleman said, with October bookings outpacing those of July.