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Boise Airport officials make pitch to new airline for service to Idaho

photo of airplane

Boise is hoping to attract service from a new airline, Breeze Airways, which will launch in 2020. File photo

An airline executive with ties to Boise announced Friday that he is starting up a new passenger airline — Breeze Airways — headquartered in Salt Lake City.

No routes have been announced, but Boise Airport officials spoke to Breeze executives this week during an aviation conference in Indianapolis that brings together decision-makers from airports, airlines and travel destinations.

“We were able to give them an overview of the Boise market and make our pitch as to why we believe the airline could be successful in Boise,” Boise airport spokesman Sean Briggs said in an email. “We would be thrilled if Breeze Airways decided to bring flights to the Boise market.”

Bill Connors, CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, said the addition of Breeze would benefit travelers flying in and out of Boise.

“Any new air service provides new markets and it creates new options, choices and value for business and leisure travelers,” Connors said by email. “Air service is a huge economic development driver, which is why it is such a big issue for our chamber.”

Utah native David Neeleman, Breeze’s founder, also co-founded Morris Air, which served Boise and 21 other cities in the West before being acquired by Southwest Airlines in 1993.

Neeleman, who also founded Jet Blue, WestJet and Brazilian carrier Azul, said he has leased 30 Embraer 195 aircraft from Azul, with delivery beginning in May, the Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported. Sixty new Airbus 220-300 aircraft have been ordered for delivery beginning in April 2021.

Neeleman told the Utah newspaper that he plans to identify and leverage nonstop flights between currently underserved airports. Today, most major carriers force passengers traveling from smaller airports to connect with a regional hub, then continue to their destinations.

“We can cut the fare in half and get them there faster,” Neeleman told the Deseret News. “And we’re going to do it in a completely new way.”

Breeze plans to offer a phone app that will allow passengers to find tickets, change or update travel plans and add hotel and car reservations without having to speak with a customer service representative.

“The goal is to have our customers … never having to speak with anybody if they don’t want to,” Neeleman told the Deseret News. “Add a car, add a hotel, cancel a flight, make changes, it will all be there at your fingertips. Completely hassle-free flying.”

Connors knew Neeleman when Connors worked last decade as the executive director of the Global Business Travel Association, which represents corporate travel procurement professionals. Connors said he hopes to speak to Neeleman to promote Boise.

Morris Air was founded in 1984 and operated as a charter carrier. It served 22 cities, including Boise, Portland, Spokane, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Reno, Las Vegas, Eugene and Colorado Springs.

The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development last year announced incentives that could earn Breeze as much as $1.1 million in tax rebates on plans to make more than $3 million in capital investments and hire about 370 employees.

Neeleman said he doesn’t anticipate Breeze flying out of Salt Lake City International Airport, but other Utah airports may be in the running for new routes.

Boise Airport Director Rebecca Hupp and Idaho Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, who has pushed for an interim legislative committee to develop a long-term strategy for intrastate commercial air service in Idaho, were not immediately available for comment.

About John Sowell Idaho Statesman