First flight on Breeze Airways from Akron-Canton: economical fares, comfortable seats and snacks
GREEN, Ohio – Do I Really Need Another Airline In My Life? Before last week I was not sure. Then i flew Brise Airways and decided there was room for another.
Since United Airlines abandoned its hub in Cleveland Hopkins in 2014, I’ve been airline agnostic – flying Frontier on one trip, Southwest on another, Delta on another, depending on where and when I travel.
It has been years, however, that I haven’t flown from Akron-Canton Airport, largely because the flights have contracted so much there and the fares are no longer cheaper than the flights. Hopkins.
Akron-Canton received a boost last month from Breeze, the new low-cost, leisure-focused carrier that began flying this summer to three destinations – Tampa, New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina.
The carrier is the latest creation of David Neeleman, who also founded JetBlue, an airline that consistently scores high marks among frequent travelers for its in-flight entertainment and free wifi, above-average legroom and excellent general reluctance towards nickel-and-dime customers.
Breeze, alas, is not JetBlue, but it tries to set itself apart from other low-cost carriers, offering a more comfortable and customer-focused product than many of its competitors.
I booked a ticket on the inaugural flight to Charleston, and this is what I found:
* Breeze, at least for now, flies smaller (but not small) planes – 108 and 118-seat Embraer jets. These planes can accommodate four people in a row – two on each side of the aisle, so there are no middle seats. Even before COVID-19, I would have really appreciated this setup.
* At 29 or 31 inches of seat spacing, these planes have more legroom than the 28 inches typically found on competing Spirit and Frontier airlines. There was enough space for me to work comfortably on my computer, and my 6ft tall husband, who likes to complain about cramped airplane quarters, wasn’t complaining either. The seats had adequate padding and were even slightly reclined.
* Shortly after take-off, flight attendants distributed small bottles of water, along with bags of Lays crisps and Kind mini bars. I got into the habit of packing my own refreshments for flights, but I appreciated the gesture.
Breeze charges additional fees for other amenities, including baggage and advanced seat assignments.
I paid $ 126 round trip for my base Charleston fare which included a personal item (purse or backpack). I added $ 20 each way for carry-on baggage, which is the same price as checked baggage. But the price drops to $ 50 if you wait until you are at the airport to buy it.
I decided not to pay extra for a seat assignment, $ 10- $ 50 each way, regardless of whether I was sitting next to my husband for the 75 minute flight. Turns out neither of the two flights was full and we sat together anyway.
Breeze offers what’s called “nicer” pricing, which bundles a bag, seat allocation, and seat in the first 12 rows of the plane, which provide extra legroom of over 4 inches. (This contrasts with its “Nice” or Ã la carte price.)
Probably the biggest benefit that Breeze offers is the lack of change or cancellation fees. U.S. airlines made a big deal during the coronavirus pandemic by suspending cancellation and change fees, but many carriers have gradually added them back, especially on their lower fares.
I thought about the benefits of the Breeze policy in the days leading up to my flight, as Tropical Storm Elsa hit the southern United States.
What if I decide not to travel to South Carolina after the storm?
Ultimately, the storm lessened in strength and passed through the Carolinas earlier than expected. What about theft? Although about an hour late at the start due to the weather, it otherwise went without incident.
With me on the plane:
* Lisa Sporich of Fairlawn, who has traveled regularly to Charleston and the Isle of Palms seaside community for decades. âWe usually drive,â she said. âI’m pretty happy to be able to fly live. “
* Debbie Socotch of Alliance, who was handing over her two grandchildren, James, 11, and Ella, 7, to their parents near Charleston. âUsually we meet halfway,â said Socotch, who convinced his daughter to extend the visit due to a decrease in travel time. “I hope to use it a lot.”
* Marian Carter and her daughter Jordan from Richfield, flying to Charleston for an orientation at the College of Charleston. Carter joked that Breeze was set to become her “personal airline” as she also started a new CAK service in New Orleans, where her eldest daughter attends school. âIt gives us options,â she said.
* Judy Swinehart from North Canton, who traveled to South Carolina to visit her two sisters. âWe are still driving,â she said. “But I’ll do it again.”
The Charleston flight is offered four times a week – Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday, perfect for long weekends. Flights to New Orleans are twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays, while flights to Tampa are once a week, on Saturdays.
In an interview last month, Neeleman said he believes Akron-Canton can handle a dozen or more additional routes to unserved destinations. Breeze currently serves 16 cities, including Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia; San Antonio, Texas; Pittsburgh and Columbus.
The carrier is currently limited by its fleet of 11 aircraft. Later this year, Breeze is expected to add the first of a dozen new, larger Airbus jets, which will expand the airline’s reach to longer routes including the West Coast.
Lisa Dalpiaz, vice president of marketing and airline development for Akron-Canton, said she didn’t think Breeze would initially attract too many travelers from Cleveland, as the three markets – Charleston, Tampa and New Orleans – are currently served from Hopkins.
There were, however, at least a few Clevelanders on my flight – including Karen H., of Seven Hills, who said the Hopkins to Charleston flights were too expensive, $ 400 or more, for the dates she was interested in.
âI thought about driving, but saw this theft,â she said. “The experience with Breeze has been only positive.”
My experience was also child’s play. I had forgotten how easy it is to fly from Akron-Canton, 15 minutes from the parking lot through security to the gate.
My only concern with the airline: Breeze does not maintain a phone number that travelers can call in case of problems or questions. All communications are directed to Facebook Messenger, by email or SMS.
Airline spokesman Gareth Edmondson-Jones said the decision to forgo the phone call was a financial one, in order to cut fares.
As an experiment, I texted the number listed (501-273-3931) with a question about baggage charges and got a response in about 25 minutes. We’ve all probably waited a lot longer on hold to communicate with a live person.
Would I fly with Breeze again? Absolutely, because even though I wasn’t looking for another airline, I think I found one.
What to expect from the new carrier Breeze Airways, launched today from Akron-Canton Airport