NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Budget airline Breeze Airways will take off from Norfolk International Airport starting Thursday, starting with flights to Charleston and Tampa.

Breeze was created by the founder of JetBlue, focusing on smaller cities which are usually overlooked by bigger carriers.

More locations will be added from Norfolk through the end of July.

  • Charleston, South Carolina (flights start June 10)
  • Tampa, Florida (June 10)
  • New Orleans, Louisiana (July 15)
  • Columbus, Ohio (July 22)
  • Hartford, Connecticut (July 22)
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (July 22)
  • Providence, Rhode Island (July 29)

Timing is everything in the airline business. The Utah-based airline took to the skies just as pandemic weary travelers are more than ready to travel to reconnect with loved ones or to check out leisure destinations such as Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston, with its world-famous dining scene, sweeping waterfront views, and Low Country History tours is the perfect destination for Brian and Stephanie Viau who are celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary and their birthdays.

“Lots to celebrate, so it’s just a nice getaway and Breeze had the direct flight to Charleston,” the Stephanie Viau.

That pretty much sums up the Breeze business model. Founded by David Neeleman, who previously founded Jet Blue, Breeze this year opened shop in several underserved markets for point-to-point travel to leisure destinations and low prices. One-way introductory fares start at $39.

Airline and regional leaders are celebrating what is being called a win-win situation.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

Trent Porter is Breeze Airway’s chief financial officer.

“We are excited to be here with the right opportunity for us and we couldn’t pass it up,” said Porter.

The opportunity that Porter speaks of includes a $400,000 incentive from the state and a $100,000 one from the City of Norfolk.

Development Director Jared Chalk says the city is spreading the word that ORF is the place to start if you want to take off.

“We are going to spend up to $100,000 in various cities around the country to market Norfolk as a place to fly,” said Chalk.

Airport officials say Breeze has invested more than $5 million and its arrival created more than 100 jobs.

“We believe that this is a great investment for the city to attract not only more travelers to the City of Norfolk but also more businesses,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander, who has his sights on a quick trip to Columbus, Ohio.

After boarding, those who assembled the deal gathered for a ceremonial spray of champagne. The maiden flight was a little late but it was still a sweet send-off.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

City leaders say things are looking up for Norfolk International. In April of last year, only 18,000 people flew out of Norfolk, but in April 2021, 235,000 people flew out of ORF.

The mayor is optimistic there’s no stopping Norfolk now.

“We’re taking travelers to major cities across the country and hopefully one day very soon we will take travelers internationally,” said Alexander.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

This month, Breeze offers only two weekly flights to Charleston and Tampa. Fights to New Orleans, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Hartford and Providence are scheduled for July. $39 is the introductory price and there are baggage fees. Company officials say once fares are set, passengers can still enjoy low prices that hover around $79 for one-way flights.