Charleston may be drying out from Tropical Storm Elsa, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of passengers headed south for a summer getaway.
The inaugural flight for Breeze Airways from Pittsburgh International Airport took off Thursday to Charleston, S.C., the first of four cities the start-up carrier will be serving locally.
Passenger Kim Harkobusic was planning to go to Charleston for a family trip but knew it was going to be a long drive.
“I was booking my hotel down there and saw on LinkedIn an article about Breeze Airways coming to Pittsburgh,” said Harkobusic as she waited to board. “I said, ‘I should take a look and see where they go,’ and lo and behold, they were flying direct to Charleston.”
Bryan Dietz, vice president of Air Service Development at PIT, said Breeze’s decision to include Pittsburgh in its 16-city launch plan is a coup for the region.
“This shows there’s opportunity and strength in our market,” said Dietz, one of several people to cut a ceremonial ribbon at the gate before departure. “They’re starting with four cities and we hope they continue to expand. We think there’s a lot of opportunity both in their existing network and in markets that could be targets for network expansion.”
Positioned as a hybrid between low-cost carriers and legacy airlines, Salt Lake City-based Breeze is offering nonstop flights from Pittsburgh to four cities in the eastern U.S., including new service to Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, in addition to Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Charleston.
Breeze is the latest airline startup for CEO David Neeleman, following JetBlue, Morris Air (later acquired by Southwest), WestJet and Azul Brazilian Airlines.
While the COVID-19 pandemic devastated much of the aviation industry, Neeleman said the turmoil actually created opportunities for his company.
“The effects of the pandemic on the nation’s air service has meant many secondary and tertiary markets have seen a significant reduction in flights,” he said. “There are so many city pairs needing nonstop service around the country, we have a further 100 cities under consideration.”
Officials at PIT celebrated the launch with a traditional water arch salute over the Embraer 190 from PIT’s fire department and handed out cupcakes and swag at the gate.
“We’re so excited to start service from Pittsburgh,” said Danny Cox, Breeze’s director of Guest Empowerment and Insights, who was part of the inaugural launch event. “With our new nonstops to places people really want to go, you’ll find on Breeze you can get there in half the time for half the price.”