Last week I hopped aboard Breeze Airways’ first-ever flight from Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport to Los Angeles (where I also found really good stuffies). It’s a twice-weekly summer seasonal route, and the first-ever nonstop commercial West Coast flight from T.F. Green, according to the airport.
I interviewed one of the execs on board – Breeze president Tom Doxey – somewhere at cruising altitude. This is what he said, lightly edited for length and clarity.
How’s it going so far?
Other than our little Wi-Fi issue, great. [Note: The Wi-Fi wasn’t working at first.] The convenience of an airport that’s by your house, security lines are shorter, the parking’s typically cheaper, and now we’re giving the ability for people to fly right to a place like Los Angeles – it’s been really great.
The airport has had routes and airlines come and go. Why is this time going to be different?
We’ve seen really good success so far. We’ve been growing. We’re doing it as an operational base – we’re basing our planes here, hiring crews here, hiring mechanics and others. It’s unique. And that will help it have staying power.
Where do you see this in five years, in Providence in particular?
We’re going to be really methodical about the way that we build. What you’re going to see us doing is simplifying the business, but also growing it methodically with the same type of smaller and midsize city vacation destination points. I think within the next couple of years, you’re going to see us launching near-international markets. And most likely we’ll start at places like the Caribbean, Cancun, probably Cabo, western Mexico, those sorts of markets. You probably heard me talk about the potential of going to Europe. I think that’s further out.
Could that be from Rhode Island eventually?
I think it makes a lot of sense for that to come from Rhode Island and Hartford, yes.
What’s happening with the unionization of pilots?
So our pilots voted [to join the Air Line Pilots Association]. It was a very small group. We had 29 yes votes. And today we have 350 pilots. So it’s challenging for us to have such a small group of people vote yes. There’s a lawsuit against the National Mediation Board; there was a hearing last week. Whatever our pilots vote is great. We just want all of them to have a voice.
There are plans to lure travelers to Rhode Island with large tourism ads featuring a stuffie at airports, including LAX. This is what a stuffie looks like. [I showed Doxey a picture of the mockup installation, below.] What do you think as a non-Rhode Islander?
[Slight pause] That’s awesome. I love it.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.
Brian Amaral can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.