The impetus for my recent return to the skies was the opportunity to try out a new airline. Both Breeze Airways and Avelo Airlines began service in the past year. However, with neither serving the DFW area, I had to get creative to try both. While I have plans to hop on Avelo next month, on this trip I tried out Breeze. I ended up booking a roundabout routing to New Orleans to try both “classes” of service. This first leg took me from Louisville to Charleston on Breeze Airways “Nice” Class.
Note: this installment is part of my larger trip report to Louisville and New Orleans in December, 2021. Click here for the trip report summary and introductory post.
Breeze Airways (MX) Flight 291
- Monday, December 13, 2021
- Depart: Louisville – Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF), Gate B9, 13:39, 6m early
- Arrive: Charleston International Airport (CHS), Gate A2, 15:10, 10m early
- Duration: 1 hour 31 minutes
- Seat: 23A (Nice Class)
- Equipment: Embraer 190
Breeze Airways Basics
Eventually, Breeze plans to operate three classes of service once flights begin on the Airbus A220 – “Nice”, “Nicer”, and “Nicest”. Nice class is a bare bones coach class fare, with standard economy seats and everything else available for an extra fee. Meanwhile, Nicer class provides free seat assignments, a free snack and drink, a checked bag, and a larger carry-on. Finally, Nicest class roughly equals domestic First Class, though the seats look, ahem, a bit nicer. For now, Breeze sells only Nice and Nicer fares on its E190 fleet.
Breeze does operate a loyalty program, “BreezePoints”, which is really more of a cash back program. Nice fares earn 2% of the base fare (excluding taxes), while Nicer fares earn 4%. Ancillary services (seats, bags, etc.) also earn 4%. Points accrue a value of 1 cent per point towards future Breeze purchases. In addition, Breeze does not charge change fees, so cancellations result in the issuance of BreezePoints equal to the canceled fare plus ancillary fees.
As far as extra fees, carryons are $25 and checked bags $29 when paid online; this increases to $50 if paid at the airport. The fee increases to $25 for flights in excess of 3 hours. Seat selection, meanwhile, ranges from $10 to $30. Even when buying a “Nice” fare, you can still pay for an extra legroom seat, usually $30.
The Breeze Airways Nice class fare on this route was $39. I also paid $13 to pre-select a window seat, bringing the total to $52. One important thing to note – Breeze does NOT sell connecting fares. Therefore, the route I booked, Louisville to Charleston to New Orleans, requires two separate one-way fares.
Finally, Breeze largely operates between secondary markets. In other words, unconventional pairs like Louisville to Charleston that otherwise lack nonstop service. If you’re based in DFW like I am, you’ll have to position elsewhere just to try Breeze. Also, Breeze doesn’t operate flights daily. Generally, city pairs run 2-3 times per week; Louisville to Charleston, for example, runs Mondays and Fridays. Some pairs (such as Charleston to New Orleans) run as often as 5 times per week.
Check-In and Boarding
I checked in online the night before using the Breeze app. Breeze participates in TSA Precheck; for some reason, though, I received it on my second leg to New Orleans but not the first to Charleston. In any event, Louisville’s not exactly a crowded airport at midday on Monday, so I made it through in only a few minutes. Breeze uses the B Concourse at Louisville, though I made time for a bourbon flight at Bourbon Academy Tasting Room first. The Old Forrester 1920 was the winner in this flight.
Anyway, I arrived at the gate about 10 minutes before boarding to snap a photo of the E190. Interestingly enough, this would be my first flight on a 190-series aircraft.
Boarding began exactly on time at 1:15. However, while Breeze advertises zone boarding, they boarded everyone at once. (The plane was maybe 60% full, so boarding finished in about 15 minutes.) Additionally, though passengers on Nice fares must pay for larger carry-ons, I saw zero enforcement from the gate staff. Nobody checked carry-ons, or your boarding pass to see if you paid for one. This might have been because of the relatively empty flight.
Breeze Airways Nice Class – Seating and Interior
Breeze’s E190s feature 12 rows of extra legroom seats and 15 rows of regular seats, all in a 2×2 configuration. Nice seats are 17.6″ wide and feature 29″ of pitch. The seats are tight, especially with bags stuffed under the seats.
As a reference point, this is legroom on Spirit’s A320s, with 28 inches of pitch. There’s not really a noticeable difference between the two. Also like Spirit, the seats don’t recline.
The 2×2 configuration guarantees no middle seats, though, a nice bonus. The two-tone grey seats with yellow trim still have that new plane look.
Meanwhile, the refurbished interior is clean and airy. Overhead bins are large enough for standard carryons, though the charge for checked bags seemed to limit the number brought onboard.
If it’s important to you, the seats do have individual overhead air vents.
The main problem here is that the slimline seats simply aren’t very comfortable. Even though this flight clocked in at barely an hour and a half, my thighs felt noticeable uncomfortable by the end of the flight. I sure hope the upcoming A220s get better padded seats, or longer flights won’t be pleasant.
Breeze Airways Nice Class – In-Flight Entertainment
In a nutshell – nada. Breeze allegedly intended to offer IFE on its E190 fleet, but this plane had none. Apparently, WiFi and IFE will have to wait until the A220 launches sometime next year. In addition, Breeze’s Embraer fleet doesn’t have power or USB ports at the seats. Presently, the longest flight in the system is Oklahoma City to Tampa, which clocks in at 2 hours 35 minutes. So, the lack of IFE and power ports isn’t a huge deal. It is a little disappointing, though, that the “tech company that happens to fly airplanes” offers so little in the way of technology.
If you bring your own content, the seatbacks to have a mobile phone holder for easier viewing.
Breeze Airways Nice Class – In-Flight Service
In Nice class, Breeze offers all food and beverages for sale. At present, the menu is pretty limited. Options include soft drinks, a few single-serve snacks, and a snack box. Flight attendants do offer a cup of water free of charge upon request. Currently, Breeze does not offer alcoholic beverages for sale in any class.
I decided to pass on buying anything on this flight, but will talk about the snacks on my Nicer Class review, coming up soon.
Service felt a little bit uneven on this flight. Actual service from the flight attendants was just fine. Or maybe more correctly, Breeze is still working some bugs out of the service flow. The lead FA greeted everyone on board, and provided an efficient beverage service about 30 minutes in. No second service was offered, but they did come by a couple of times to pick up trash. Where the unevenness came in was prior to boarding. As mentioned, Breeze advertises boarding by group numbers. On this flight, though, the gate agent boarded all groups at once, with the announcement inaudible. The agent also didn’t check to see if passengers paid for carry-ons.
Also, the captain did not come out into the cabin to make the pre-departure announcements. That’s not normally something I’d comment on, but as I found out later, Breeze apparently expects captains to do this.
This Monday was a spectacular day for flying, with mostly clear skies the entire way. Louisville doesn’t see a ton of commercial traffic, but there were a few planes around the terminal, including this Spirit A320.
We turned east quickly after take-off, providing a nice view of the airfield and the city of Louisville behind.
Shortly thereafter, we headed southeast into the rolling hills of southeastern Kentucky’s coal country. I only wished I’d taken this flight about a month earlier, with the fall foliage at peak.
Continuing southeast, the terrain grew more rugged as we headed to the higher peaks of the Appalachians. Some of the higher ridges of the mountain chain started coming into view below.
Then, as we passed near the triple border of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia, an example of the “braided” valley-ridge-valley terrain typical of Appalachia.
At about the halfway point of the flight, we passed just west of Asheville, North Carolina. This area really is one of the most beautiful parts of the Blue Ridge; for road trip enthusiasts, you can experience the highest elevations along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Soon enough, we cleared the mountains, paralleling I-26 just to the west of South Carolina’s state capital, Columbia.
Then, entering South Carolina’s Low Country, a distant view of Lake Marion as we began our descent in earnest.
As we began our final approach to CHS, we enjoyed a nice view of downtown Charleston and the harbor.
Winds had us landing from the south, so we pulled a U-turn at this point to line up with the runway. That gave us a look at the marshy landscape along the Stono River west of the city.
CHS is a shared civilian-military airfield, and so several fighter jets were preparing for takeoff as we landed. Those Air Force jets certainly make a statement as they launch down the runway – they are thunderously loud! I did manage to grab a shot as we taxied towards the terminal. (I’m not great at identifying military jets, but I think these are a pair of F-16s.)
We did pass close to a couple of civilian aircraft as well – a United Express E170, and finally a Delta 737-900 as we pulled into the gate.
Breeze Airways Nice Class – Final Thoughts
Breeze offers a decent enough standard Economy Class product. The airline offers friendly crews, clean planes, and more importantly, much faster nonstop service between secondary city pairs. While seat comfort isn’t great, and amenities are light, the short flights mitigate that somewhat. On the other hand, even as someone who’s not exactly on the cutting edge of technology, the general lack of technology is – weird. In general, though, Breeze does strike me as an, ahem, nicer LCC option than Spirit, Frontier, etc.
However, I do find myself scratching my head on the economics of these flights. More on that in my back-to-back review of Nicer class, coming up next.