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Launching during pandemic could give Breeze and Avelo a boost

When Breeze Airways took to the skies on May 27, that meant that two discount U.S. airlines launched in the spring that follows a devastating year for commercial aviation.

But while Breeze and the new Avelo Airlines doubtlessly hope for successful launches, buoyed by the surging demand of the domestic U.S. leisure travel market, they face a challenging road ahead, said aviation analyst Bob Mann of R.W. Mann and Co.

"The track record of startups since deregulation, it's like all the dead armadillos on the side of a Texas highway. It's just roadkill," Mann said, referencing the 1978 deregulation of the U.S. airline industry. "It's hard, and most of them fail."

Breeze will fly 39 routes this summer to 16 destinations with an emphasis on ferrying vacationers in the eastern half of the country to Tampa, New Orleans, Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va.

Avelo will fly 11 routes between Burbank, Calif., and leisure destinations, mostly along the West Coast and in the Mountain West.

Both airlines are positioning themselves as discount carriers, which is the market segment that has performed best during the Covid-19 crisis. And though planning for the airlines was underway before the pandemic began, they've had the opportunity to tailor their launches to the leisure-dominant market that the pandemic has created.

For Breeze, that led to its initial Southeast-focused route network.

"That's where the opportunity is right now," Breeze founder David Neeleman said. "I think the Sunbelt is hot."

Avelo might soon follow suit. The carrier announced this month that its second base will be in New Haven, Conn., a location from which it is likely to focus on Sunbelt service.

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