Breeze celebrates inaugural flight out of Provo Airport
It was a uniquely Utah County experience. With a small gathering on the second floor of the new Provo Airport terminal on Thursday, and the subsequent shuffling through two Transportation Security Administration scanners, a new era had begun.
The first flight out of the new terminal for Breeze Airways was being readied as Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, Breeze President Tom Doxey and others discussed what the flight signals for the area’s future.
“We are opening up Provo and Utah County to the rest of the world,” Kaufusi said to the crowd. “Provo City proudly adopted the phrase ‘Welcome Home’ as our slogan and this represents who we are as a community.”
It was that welcoming spirit that led to the steady growth of the airport in the last decade, culminating with June’s grand opening. Perfectly destined to be Provo’s partner moving forward was Breeze Airways. The relatively young company opted to make the city its home base, a move Doxey was proud to discuss.
“Having gone to BYU, having played baseball at BYU, to go back to Provo and be there for the first flight out of that city is, personally, really special,” Doxey said.
He touted the airport’s accessibility for residents and the speed with which a passenger can get from parking to the plane.
“You wait in line for security less, you’re driving less, there’s less traffic along the way, there’s great parking,” Doxey said.
He also took an opportunity to compare Utah County with Breeze’s first destination while speaking from the terminal in San Francisco. “This is by far the fastest way to get from Silicon Slopes to Silicon Valley,” he said while also teasing additional market announcements in the future.
The inaugural flight itself reflected the connection between the city and company. As Kaufusi and Doxey cut the ceremonial ribbon, Brigham Young University mascot Cosmo the Cougar came aboard the plane, high-fiving passengers while being serenaded with the school’s fight song. Once the last of the passengers cam aboard, all that was left was the ceremonial spray-down of the plane from two Provo Fire Department trucks. Just like that, it was time to take to the skies.
The sold-out and nearly full flight for 108 people made its way over Utah Lake into San Francisco for the first stop of the day, acting as a “Breeze through” for passengers looking to continue on to San Bernardino.
By the time the plane landed at its mid-point in San Bernardino, Doxey was enjoying himself and looking to the future.
“It’s just the start. We flew to San Francisco and then on to San Bernardino today. Then, we’ve got Las Vegas, we’ve got L.A. and more to come. We’re got big plans for Provo,” he said.
As for future locations, Doxey said the company will follow demand and look to locations people would “expect” for flights out of Utah County.
Further showing the connection Breeze is building with Provo, Doxey announced Thursday that the company will be the official “hometown airline” of BYU athletics. The agreement is for five years and will include flights for most male and female student athletes.
On hand for BYU was Brian Santiago, assistant athletic director, ready to praise the partnership and share what it will mean for the university.
“This partnership benefits BYU athletics. We focus a lot of our efforts on the student athletes and the coaches (and) this makes their lives better,” Santiago said. “All around, it makes all of our lives better. We couldn’t be more grateful for this relationship with Breeze Airways.”
With this partnership, teams will be able to fly directly out of Provo wherever they need to be and return just as easily. Santiago touted the efficiency it will afford for athletes and coaches, spending less time in transit.
It also comes at a fortuitous time for everyone involved. Breeze came into existence 15 months ago, the airport expansion just recently finished and BYU athletics are making the move to the Big 12 conference.
“This really, for us, is a partnership made in heaven,” Santiago said.
The partnership will affect all non-football sports at BYU. The football team maintains its partnership with Delta Airlines, Santiago said.
For a select few on the inaugural ride, the trip to San Francisco was nothing more than a one-way ticket. For those with skin in the game, Breeze’s trip to the Bay Area was a historic accomplishment.
After landing, it took a few extra minutes for the plane to taxi into the gate — it was the first Embraer 195 to arrive at San Francisco International Airport, according to Breeze officials.
Once locked in, passengers deplaned and were greeted by a welcoming display, baked goods and curious onlookers.
Kaufusi, Doxey and Utah County Commissioner Tom Sakievich posed for photos with airport executives, receiving hats bearing the acronym “SFO.”
According to Kevin Bumen, chief commercial officer for San Francisco International Airport, Breeze is the first domestic airline to join their rotation in 15 years since Virgin America.
From there, a smattering of Breeze employees were back on the flight and headed to San Bernardino as the first commercial flight ever into the airport. The airport had previously been only used for cargo since the Air Force left in the mid-2000s.
As the wheels touched down in San Bernardino, the plane’s cabin broke out in cheers — television cameras and fire trucks prepared for another ceremonial hosing waited eagerly for the arrival of Breeze.
For Frank Navarro, president of the Airport Authority Board and mayor of Colton, California, it was the culmination of decades of work and a moment to celebrate.
“What’s happening today started as a dream, became a vision, became a plan and we’re at fruition,” he said. After plenty of meetings, the city and company began their working relationship. He was sold on Breeze after learning about the amenities, getting to know the executives and examining options, but one aspect of the Breeze model stood above the others: their low cancellation fees.
Navarro added that he’s excited to fly the length of the Breeze route back to Provo, having spent time in Park City and Tooele while serving in the military.
With music, cake and balloons all set up inside, the honored guests from Utah joined local politicians in San Bernadino to christen the plane with champagne.
On their way back through security, however, Kaufisi was afforded another chance to do something for the first time. Much to Doxey’s chagrin, Kaufusi said, TSA agents patted down Provo’s mayor and used her to demonstrate to the new security officers how the examination should be done.
Through any embarrassment, Kaufusi was still beaming and celebrating the day.
Now, though, after meetings upon meetings and hours of planning, the day was coming to a close having been seen as a resounding success.
“When it finally arrived, it seemed surreal,” Kaufusi said. “It was perfect. It was perfect.”