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April 26 (Reuters) - Breeze Airways, a new U.S. carrier founded by airline backer David Neeleman, has expanded its growth plans with an additional order for 20 Airbus A220-300 jets, industry sources said.
Bringing the startup’s total order for the jet to 80, the deal would make Breeze the second-biggest customer for the Canadian-designed A220 family after Delta Air Airlines, leapfrogging JetBlue which Neeleman also founded.
The order matches a purchase of 20 A220-300 from an undisclosed buyer, reported by Airbus in a monthly report last week. Airbus and Breeze both declined comment.
Breeze is on course to start flying in the summer, Neeleman told a recent conference. Its arrival injects new competition into a battered airline market just as domestic flying in the United States is recovering as vaccination rates increase.
“There is a ton of pent-up demand on the leisure side,” he told last week’s World Aviation Festival.
Breeze is Neeleman’s fifth commercial airline and originally went under the launch name Moxy.
It aims to focus on underserved U.S. cities starting with older Embraer 190/195 jets, some of which have been inherited from Brazil’s Azul, another Neeleman venture which has been hit hard by a second local wave of the COVID-19 virus.
The first A220 jet from the existing order will be delivered to Breeze in October and serve longer routes.
Although costs for the Embraer jets have fallen sharply, the newer Airbus model is cheaper to operate, Neeleman said. Breeze plans to keep both types in its fleet.
Breeze is in talks with Airbus to increase the A220’s range with an extra fuel tank, Neeleman told the conference, confirming an Air Current report.
The latest deal comes weeks after Boeing barred the A220 from its main U.S. stronghold, Southwest Airlines, by winning an order for 100 Boeing 737 MAX 7. (Reporting by Tim Hepher, David Shepardson, editing by Louise Heavens)