- Breeze Airways has begun hiring for 85 pilot positions as the airline prepares to launch this year.
- Pilots are required to have a minimum set of hours but recruiters are also looking for soft skills like customer service.
- The startup aspires to be a "nice" airline and pilots will need to act as brand ambassadors.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
The first flights of Breeze Airways are just around the corner and the David Neeleman-founded startup is looking to bring on more pilots in advance of its long-awaited debut.
Getting pilots to take a chance on the startup, which is slated to begin flights amid an ongoing pandemic recovery period, has surprisingly not been an issue for Breeze. Around 4,400 pilots have already applied to fly for the airline with only around 85 spots available.
"They want to work for the newest and the nicest airline out there with new shiny planes or gently used planes," Jan Coleman, Breeze's manager of pilot recruitment, told Insider.
Neeleman's track record speaks for itself with successes across three countries starting JetBlue Airways, Azul Brazilian Airlines, Morris Air, and WestJet, as well as a guiding TAP Air Portugal in a leadership role.
Getting in on the ground floor of a seniority-based company also has its perks. Pilots with higher rankings often have their pick of assignments over more recent hires, allowing them to have better control over their flying schedule, for example.
And the pandemic has given Breeze a lot of talent to choose from as airlines have been downsizing pilot pools with furloughs and voluntary leave programs. "We've really been able to be selective and get the cream of the crop," Coleman said.
Matching an aircraft with a lifestyle
Breeze plans to operate two aircraft types: the Embraer E190/95 and Airbus A220-300. Both have the same requirements in terms of minimum flight hours but each offers pilots a different lifestyle.
"One of our biggest pitches and approaches is: live when you fly and fly where you live," Coleman said.
Pilots assigned to the Embraer fleet will return to their base every night instead of spending nights on the road. It's a concept that saves Breeze on hotel expenses but also allows pilots to spend more time at home.
"There's no commuting if you don't want to commute, there are no more crash pads if you don't want to crash pad," Coleman explained.
Allegiant Air operates a similar model and Coleman said Breeze applicants have been largely receptive to that idea because of the additional freedom it gives them to be "at home every night with your family and your friends and your pets and have a life."
But those seeking the typical pilot lifestyle of multi-day trips out on the road will find it on the Airbus fleet. More traditional flying consisting of two to three-day trips will be common on the A220, and pilots preferring that lifestyle should hold off on applying.
Pilots hired to Breeze now will be assigned to the Embraer fleet while the application window for the Airbus fleet will open early this summer. Once a pilot is assigned to one aircraft, though, they're locked in for at least three years before a switch can be made.
And those wanting to experience the life of an international jet-setting pilot will get to do so at Breeze, just not straight away. The first year of Breeze's operation will be domestic-oriented but the airline plans to introduce international flights in the near future, spokesperson Gareth Edmondson-Jones confirmed to Insider.
Breeze's minimum qualifications
The basic requirements to become a Breeze pilot come down to flight hours. All applicants are required to have at least 1,500 total hours with 1,000 hours of experience flying fixed-wing turbine aircraft, regardless of whether applying for the Embraer or Airbus fleet.
Military pilots, however, only need 1,000 hours if that time was spent flying high-performance military aircraft.
Pilots looking to fly the Embraer fleet, however, will have to have a type rating for the Embraer E170/E190 while Airbus applicants are not required to have an A220 type rating since the aircraft is so new.
"We're really looking for those folks that have good time on the E-Jet to get us started," Coleman said.
The type rating requirement for the Embraer fleet favors pilots flying the Brazilian aircraft for the likes of JetBlue or one of the country's regional airlines like Republic Airways, SkyWest Airlines, and Mesa Airlines that fly the Embraer E170.
"The Embraer 175 is a very popular regional jet," Brandon Soloman, Breeze's manager of pilot pipeline and development, told Insider. "The 190 being the same type rating, yes, it's almost kind of a natural step."
American Airlines recently retired the Embraer E190 from its fleet in 2020 but those pilots would still be eligible as Coleman says the airline wants recency of experience from within the past two years.
From a college class to the right seat
Breeze is working with college aviation programs to implement "pipeline" programs that put aspiring airline pilots on a track to work at the airline.
Regional airlines frequently recruit at the college level and then major airlines recruit from the regional airlines using these programs. Student pilots are interviewed by the airline during their training and then put on a path to employment at that airline so that they'll have a job straight out of school.
Breeze plans to operate the program a bit differently by focusing on mentorship from experienced pilots to those still in training. Mentors will help not only help with the technical aspect of flying for an airline but also ensure candidates have the right "cultural fit" to meet Breeze's values.
"Our program will be very heavily focused on helping them make that transition a little easier than it might be at a bigger airline that doesn't have enough resources to focus," Solomon said.
Colleges and universities already play a large role in the airline's hiring strategy. Breeze's flight attendants will be paid college interns that attend online classes when they're not flying.
Pilots won't go straight from the classroom to the cockpit, however, as they'll need to build up their flight hours to Breeze's requirements, which is often done through flight instructing.
More than just a pilot
Minimum qualifications might get pilots in the door at Breeze but are no guarantee of a job. Recruiters are also looking to see if a pilot is a match with the airline's values and for customer service-oriented and safety-minded individuals.
"I think the biggest thing is they really need to be a good leader who will really take great care of our team members and our passengers, and they've got to be nice," Coleman said. "We really are all about [how] nice and kindness goes a long way."
Pilots will be expected to be on the frontlines as the airline gets off the ground and that means interacting with passengers in the terminal, making pre-departure announcements in front of passengers instead of from the cockpit, and being an overall brand ambassador.
"We want good pilots that are really good people," Solomon said.