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Published on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Radical new low-cost US carrier: Don’t bring your own food

Extreme low-fare airline Skybus plans to create some new turbulence into US airspace with flights beginning next month, according to company officials.

Already well established in Europe, the carrier will try for a comeback in the US on May 22 with a well-financed start-up, said The New York Times.

Skybus Airlines promises at least 10 seats on every flight priced at $10 one-way — before taxes.

“If it sounds like People Express and Laker Airways — low-price carriers that made a splash, expanded too fast and then collapsed — there are similarities,” said the Times.

But the organizers of Skybus are counting on the $160 million cushion that they have raised and on a big change in consumer behavior to help the carrier follow the success of Ryanair, the Irish airliner that the growth of low-cost, no frills service.

Like Ryanair, Skybus, based in Columbus, Ohio, is charging extra for many items — $5 to check a bag, $10 for a preferred seat, $2 for a soft drink.

Carrying food on board?  Not allowed, according to Skybus’s Web site, “unless you brought enough for the whole plane.”

The airline will sell tickets only through its Web site, avoiding the expense of maintaining a reservations call center or paying a sales commission to travel agents. Skybus is also outsourcing its maintenance, the staffing of ticket counters at airports and its baggage handling  --  all to keep costs low.

“Don’t call us,” the Web site explains. “We don’t have a phone number.”

Skybus’s success will depend heavily on the overall health of the air travel market. As the market grows, there is room for many approaches, so long as they are well managed, concluded the Times.

Skybus’s top walk-up fare will be $330 one way, before taxes. But it has many very low fares — $40, $50, $75 — one way, before taxes.

Initially, Skybus will connect Columbus to Burbank, Calif., near Los Angeles; Portsmouth, N.H., near Boston; Bellingham, Wash., near Seattle; Kansas City, Mo.; Richmond, Va.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Greensboro, N.C. In June, flights are planned to Oakland, Calif.

On Skybus, “other than using the restroom, everything comes with a fee,” said Brandy King, a spokeswoman for Southwest.

If it’s any indication of future success, in the first three hours the Skybus Web site was up with fare information, 30,000 tickets were sold.

Report by David Wikening

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  • OK, you get what you pay for, but...

    I'd never fly this airline for the simple reason you can't call and talk to a human being if you have problems with them.

    By Alesse Levintle, Sunday, August 5, 2007

  • cost

    I have been watching the prices sky rocket over the last few weeks...you have to wonder will they keep going up? If so i would rather fly another airline and get free drinks.

    By kelly compton, Sunday, June 17, 2007

  • Wait and see how direct competion deals with new airline on the block

    Radical price cuts are one attraction as new airlines arrive on the scene.  If that is all they have to offer without matching service and attitudes of other low costs such as Jet Blue, they will learn what the legacy airlines have been learning that there is more to holding the passengers than just low prices.  American carriers should look to the European market where the Ryan Air and other low cost airlines have carved a good part of the market.

    By Harold Weller, Wednesday, May 16, 2007

  • Sour-west Grapes

    "On Skybus, 'other than using the restroom, everything comes with a fee,' said Brandy King, a spokeswoman for Southwest."

    A sour grapes comment from Southwest...I'm a little surprised that one cleared their PR crew, and I'd be curious to know how it goes over with consumers. For me, it does not diminish the appeal of Skybus -- I'd venture to say that, if one is able to buy a round-trip ticket for $100 or less, the optional $22/flight a passenger would pay to check two bags, upgrade his/her seat and purchase a soft drink would seem a trifle to most. Even factoring in fees, it appears that the total cost of (most) Skybus trips does not even begin to approach the cost of a ticket alone through the majority of airlines; on first glance, it seems they have even Southwest beat!

    If Skybus really takes off (pardon the pun) and is able to sustain these rates as more than a grand-opening blitz, consumers may expect Southwest to build a far more solid argument than, "Grumble, grumble, infinitesimal fees," when addressing these rock-bottom prices.

    By Leila Singleton, Tuesday, May 1, 2007

  • Low cost airline

    Was it really necessary to slam travel agents again and move passengers away from us?  Your comment about keeping costs down by not paying commission infers that travel agents will not sell their product .  In fact, we will sell their product as we have done for all the other airlines -commission or no commission.  I'm sure Skybus will be happy to have us let people know about their product and also make reservations for those that are web savvy and for those that do not even have internet access.  Give us a break please.

    By Jennifer Klempner, Tuesday, May 1, 2007

  • Can you bring biscuits?

    Surely they aren't going to stop people bringing snacks such as biscuits, fruit or chocolate bars are they?  What are diabetics who need to have a snack to hand in case their blood sugar levels drop too low supposed to do?

    By Margaret Austin, Tuesday, May 1, 2007

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