For Father’s Day, I decided to do a little something different this year. My son Ashok started expressing interest in accompanying me on my I blog boondoggles about a year ago. We did our first avgeek jaunt last December on a day trip to Chicago, which went really well. So this time, we decided to do our first father-son overnight trip. And what better way to do it than by getting some blog material in the process? I’ve wanted to try Breeze’s “Nicest” class on the A220-300 for a while, so I searched for options. I eventually found a routing on Breeze Ascent from Tampa to Hartford that worked for a true weekend trip. This flight ran me $169 for each ticket, though I used $12.76 of orphaned BreezePoints from my trip to try Nice and Nicer Classes.
Breeze Airways (MX) Flight 533
- Sunday, June 18, 2023
- Depart: Tampa International Airport (TPA), Concourse C, Gate C45, 11:31, 9m early
- Arrive: Hartford Bradley International Airport (BDL), Gate 22, 14:24, 1m early
- Duration: 2 hours 53 minutes
- Seats: 2D, 2F
- Equipment: Airbus A220-300
Breeze Ascent – The Basics
Specifically, Breeze Ascent refers to Breeze’s First Class seating. In a way, it’s similar to Spirit’s Big Front Seat. Unlike the BFS, though, Breeze does offer free drinks and snacks in Ascent. (Oddly, while “drinks” includes alcoholic beverages, “snacks” doesn’t include premium snack boxes. Only the junk food in the snack basket.) Although the “Nicest” bundle includes Breeze Ascent seats, you can can select the seats for a fee with any fare. If you pay for the Nicest bundle, you get a carry-on, 2 checked bags, and priority boarding.
So what does the buy-up look like? Looking at a random flight from Charleston to Hartford, Nicer costs $80 and Nicest $141 more than the base fare.
Meanwhile, Ascent seats run $101 with a Nice fare.
With a Nicer fare, the Ascent seats still run $101, though extra legroom seats are free.
In other words, if all you want is the seat, carefully compare the bundle price to the seat buy-up before buying. In this example, buying a Nicer fare and then selecting an Ascent seat costs $40 more than just buying the Nicest bundle.
Check-In and Boarding
Our flight from Dallas the day before came in later than expected. Way late, as the patented AA Creeping Delay (TM) turned a 6:48 pm arrival into an 11 pm one. My son and I slept in a little, but he wanted to head to the airport to eat breakfast. So we headed over right away. I checked in online using the Breeze app, and Precheck on a Sunday morning took just a few minutes. We had plenty of time to grab coffee and breakfast at Café con Leche, and lunch for the flight at PDQ. Then, we settled in at an eerily empty gate area at C45 to await our flight. Ashok certainly seemed plenty amped up for this first weekend trip with dad.
Boarding began on time, and we headed on board with Group 1 with our Ascent seats. Note that Breeze allows all families with children under 12 to board first with Group 1. So don’t waste your money buying priority boarding when flying with the kids.
Breeze Ascent Seating and Interior
Initially, Breeze offered two configurations on the A220-300. One featured 36 “Nicest” First Class seats, 10 extra legroom “Nicer” seats, and 80 “Nice” standard Economy seats. The other featured 10 Nicest seats, 45 Nicer seats, and 80 Nice seats. Recently, however, Breeze reconfigured all A220s in the slightly denser configuration. For those flying Ascent, this means 10 Safran Z600 seats in a 2-2 configuration. Seat pitch measures 39″, with 20.5″ of width. That’s actually more generous pitch than typical domestic First products, which usually feature 36-37″ of pitch.
This aircraft, put in service just 10 days prior to our flight, certainly had that new plane look and smell. Breeze outfits its Ascent seats in grey leather with blue headrest trim. Small touches like the neon blue mood lighting in the armrest give the cabin a fresh, bright feel.
The A220-300’s oversized windows give the cabin an exceptionally airy feel.
Purple mood lighting also graces the ceiling by the fuselage.
With the half walls, the seats somewhat resemble the new First Class seats on Delta’s A321neo. Unlike the neo, though, Breeze’s seats don’t include the winged headrest for additional privacy.
Legroom felt quite generous, with plenty of space to stretch out. In fact, it felt more roomy than similar domestic First products on American, Delta, or United. Overkill for this shorter flight, perhaps, but welcome for sure on a longer route like Las Vegas to Jacksonville.
The seats feature a fixed-shell design with both recline and legrest controls through separate buttons.
In fully relaxed mode, the seat provides adequate recline and room to rest your legs. Because of the fixed-shell design, reclining results in minimal disruption of the space behind you.
I found seat comfort alright on this flight. While plenty roomy, the cushioning was a bit hard, in my opinion. That left me with a bit of saddle sore at the end of this 2 1/2 hour flight. My little guy certainly found them plenty comfy, though.
As far as storage goes, the main storage is a deep console wrapping around both seats. You can easily put a tablet, phone, newspaper, etc. in here.
There’s also a pair of small cubbies in the footspace between the seat in front of you. I’m not exactly sure what you can shove in there, though. A drink holder also reveals itself above if you flip open the knob. But it’s of pretty limited utility, as it’s difficult to reach a drink in that position.
One thing that’s clearly still an issue with Breeze – they have trouble filling up their planes. This Sunday flight was half full in Ascent, about the same in the extra legroom section, and less than that in deep coach.
That’s probably the biggest thing you should keep in mind with Breeze. Their network planning seems to consist of a monkey flinging [excrement] on a wall and seeing what sticks. If it doesn’t, they’ll cancel routes with little warning. So book in advance at your own peril.
Breeze Ascent In-Flight Entertainment
At the time of my flight, IFE consisted of…nothing. WiFi wasn’t installed yet, so your choice was to bring your own, or enjoy the view out the window. This is changing, though, with Breeze installing WiFi on its entire A220-300 fleet by early 2024. The installation of WiFi also enables streaming entertainment options though the system. Breeze hasn’t finalized WiFi pricing yet, but they do promise one unique feature. Your purchase WiFi by PNR, so one price connects devices for all passengers on your reservation. That’s a legitimate enhancement I wish more airlines might try and emulate.
Anyway, all Ascent seats include a 110v outlet and USB A and C ports between seats. I like this placement on the front of the seat, as it helps keep cords from tangling in your feet.
The seats also contain a couple of device holders. With the tray table stowed, a device holder flips down from the bottom of the table.
With the tray table down, it instead flips up from the top of the table.
The problem with this setup? Your phone or tablet isn’t exactly secured tight. Jostling the tray (or a bout of significant turbulence) can send it sliding.
Breeze Ascent Food, Beverage, and Service
As mentioned earlier, Breeze offers a complimentary selection of food and beverages in Breeze Ascent. Oddly, while all alcoholic beverages are free – even the “premium” selections like cocktails – the snack boxes aren’t. You’ll just have to take junk food (or bring you own) with that Old Fashioned.
My son and I both just enjoyed a Sprite with the lunch we’d brought onboard. Ashok wanted chicken fingers, so we grabbed a box at PDQ before boarding. As far as chicken fingers go, they’re not bad. As an aside, TPA does a pretty good job of bringing local concessionaires to its concourses. Café con Leche has been a Ybor City fixture for a century, and PDQ was founded in Tampa.
And we enjoyed some bonding moments afterwards.
Frankly, I think food & beverage is one aspect where I think Breeze leaves something on the table. On the one hand, yes, it’s better than what you get with Sprit’s Big Front Seat. At least with Ascent, the fare does come with unlimited drinks and some snacks. But the exclusion of snack boxes just seems kind of silly.
I found service on this flight generally average. The FAs were friendly, though not particularly proactive. After the main snack/beverage service, there weren’t any proactive second helpings offered, though they did quickly respond to the call bell if you wanted something. Fine for a quick-ish domestic flight, in other words.
After taking our seats after boarding, I spied another Breeze A220-300 at the gate next door. I really do like the A220; it’s a sleek-looking plane, and provides a great passenger experience inside.
Meanwhile a few gates down, crews were busy getting Southwest’s colorful Arizona One loaded up.
We took off to the south, which took us across the Howard Frankland Bridge heading to St. Pete shortly after takeoff. Apparently it’s being expanded and rebuilt these days.
After hooking a U-turn to head north, we passed the Gandy Bridge looking towards South Tampa. An unfortunately placed cloud covered up what would have been a nice shot of Macdill Air Force Base.
I realized after the fact that I picked the wrong side of the plane to sit on. Why? If I’d taken the other side, we might have gotten a distant view of the New York skyline as we passed to the east. Instead, we caught a brief glimpse of the Hamptons as we flew over the east end of Long Island.
Finally, on final approach to Bradley Airport, we enjoyed some nice views of Hartford as we passed to the west. In this case, a well-timed low cloud added an illusion of clouds dancing around the skyline as we descended through it.
After arriving at Bradley, I made sure to grab a photo of our beautiful, new A220 before moving on. That’s one mean looking machine seen from the front.
We then hung out in the terminal for our four-hour layover before heading back to Dallas. Unlike the flight getting us out of town, this one featured no drama, and got us home more or less on time.
Breeze Ascent Final Thoughts
Breeze Ascent certainly is a unique product in the low-cost carrier space. It’s a true First Class seat with more premium class features than competing products like the Big Front Seat. So what’s the value proposition? For $100, it’s not a bad price for a much more spacious seat and some free drinks. On longer flights, though – Jacksonville to Las Vegas, for instance – the buy-up runs much more. Random winter dates price out at $270 for just the seat. I’d say that’s pretty steep.