As third-grader Melvin Landry walked with his parents to their gate Friday for PIT’s first nonstop flight to Orange County, Calif., in 20 years, he could hardly contain his excitement.
He was as pumped for the flight as he was for the vacation to Disneyland and then Hawaii that was to follow. He quickly identified the Breeze Airways aircraft as an Airbus A220 before posing for some photos at Gate D84 celebrating the new flight.
“It’s really easy for me to identify the type of plane because I just know a lot about them. I watch YouTube and I’ve loved planes my whole life,” said Landry, 8, of Pittsburgh’s South Hills.
Melvin Landry, 8, poses for a photo before joining his family on Breeze’s inaugural flight to Orange County from PIT on March 31, 2023. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)
The Landry family was among the large crowd booked for the flight that had the opportunity to participate in an 8 a.m. airport party complete with cookies, giveaways and the sounds of the Beach Boys to send them off. Officials also cut a ceremonial ribbon commemorating the event.
The nonstop flight to Orange County’s Santa Ana John Wayne Airport operates year-round on Mondays and Fridays and brings the total destinations Breeze serves from PIT to 10, including New Orleans; Hartford, Connecticut; Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; New York-Islip; Norfolk, Virginia; Portland, Maine; Providence, Rhode Island; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
Angela Vargo, vice president of marketing and communications at Breeze, flew in to celebrate the inaugural flight with passengers and airport staff.
“[This flight is] an extremely popular route for families, of course, with Disneyland and a lot of those attractions on the West Coast. For a family, this is an easy getaway for the weekend,” Vargo said.
“Pittsburgh was one of the original cities in our network when we started. We’re coming up on our two-year anniversary and the response from this community has been just phenomenal. The growth potential for Breeze here is sky high. It’s just a matter of where do we go next?”
Breeze launched PIT in July 2021, when Pittsburgh was one of the first 16 cities served by the airline. The low-cost carrier was founded by aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman, who also started Morris Air (later acquired by Southwest), WestJet, JetBlue and Azul Brazilian Airlines.
Amy Huseman was traveling with her daughter, Holly, 7, who was on spring break. They were all smiles as boarding time got closer, thinking about their plans to go to Disneyland, Universal Studios and the beach.
“I’ve wanted to go to L.A., and I’ve been waiting since last year and all of a sudden this popped up in January so I booked it,” Huseman said.
Breeze becomes the second airline to fly nonstop between PIT and Southern California, a key West Coast market from Pittsburgh. Spirit Airlines flies daily nonstop service to Los Angeles International Airport. Breeze is the first airline to link Pittsburgh and Orange County with nonstop service since US Airways, which operated the route until September 2003.
San Diego native Molly Kremer, who now lives in Pittsburgh, was excited to take the inaugural flight with her two girls, Maggie, 4, and Kelsey, 7, to visit with family in Southern California this week.
“I’ve been telling everyone this is the maiden voyage,” said Kremer, laughing. “This is the best.”
From left, Ellen Saksen, PIT Vice President, Marketing; Angela Vargo, Breeze Vice President, Marketing and Communications; Bryan Dietz, PIT Senior Vice President, Air Service & Commercial Development; and Joe Rotterdam, Director, Air Service Development, cut the ceremonial ribbon before Breeze’s inaugural flight to Orange County. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)