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Impressive response could see Breeze’s new seasonal service to Islip extended

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of January 4, 2024)

From the moment Breeze Airways arrived in Vero Beach last February – when the Utah-based carrier introduced nonstop jet service to and from Hartford, Connecticut, and Westchester County, New York – local residents began asking for a connection to another off-Broadway market.


Or as Vero Beach Airport Director Todd Scher called it: “The one city that more people kept mentioning over and over.”

Two weeks ago, Breeze gave the people what they wanted, adding twice-per-week service between Vero Beach and Islip’s MacArthur Airport on New York’s Long Island. And the initial response to the seasonal service has been even better than airline officials expected.

“Islip just started only a week ago,” Breeze spokesman Gareth Edmondson-Jones said last week, “but it is already performing as well as or better than our other destinations from Vero for the winter months ahead.”

Edmondson-Jones said February looks to be an “especially strong” month for the Vero-Islip route, attributing at least some of the surge in bookings to students being off from school for winter break.

But he added that bookings for all of Breeze’s flights between Vero Beach and the Northeast – including Providence, Rhode Island, as well Hartford, Westchester County and Islip – are promising.

“With service now to two New York airports, as well as Hartford and Providence near Boston, all signs are showing a continued appetite for growth of travel to and from Vero,” Edmondson-Jones said, “and also for Breeze’s unique product offering.”

Islip was added to Breeze’s Vero Beach route map on Dec. 21, with the carrier offering introductory one-way fares as low as $69. The Sunday and Thursday service is scheduled to end on April 28, but Scher said a continued strong and steady response could convince the airline’s officials to make it a full-time offering here.

“It seems to be a popular destination,” he said.

Located 60 miles east of Manhattan and 55 miles west of Southampton, Islip is located near the center of Long Island, where its two suburban counties – Nassau and Suffolk – have a combined population of 3 million.

Two other airlines, Southwest and Frontier, also operate out of Islip’s 80-year-old airport, where in recent weeks the terminal has been decorated with flamingos, palm trees and beach balls to celebrate Breeze providing Long Island’s first nonstop commercial jet service to Vero.

“Long Islanders are going to love a seriously comfortable, seriously affordable and seriously nice winter Florida getaway to Vero Beach, one of Florida’s best-kept secrets,” Breeze founder and CEO David Neeleman said last month, when the route was announced.

A statement released by Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said: “These new Breeze Airways nonstop flights to Vero Beach will bring family members together, make it easy for Long Islanders to take vacations for sun and fun, and bring visitors to Long Island.”

Closer to home, Scher said the airport and staff here have been able to absorb Breeze’s increase in commercial service, which has pushed the facility’s combined number of departures and arrivals to 26 per week.

He said he believes that level of commercial airline activity is unprecedented in the airport’s history.

In fact, he said Breeze carried 14,000 passengers to and from Vero Beach in November – before new flights were added in December.

“That’s incredible,” Scher said, adding that the new activity prompted him to review the numbers generated by Elite Airways, which returned commercial passenger service to Vero Beach in 2015, only to shut down its operations in the summer of 2022.

“Elite was doing maybe 6,000 enplanements and deplanements per month,” he said. “So the comparison is pretty eye-opening.”