Skybus Shuts Down

Skybus is no more. The ultra-no-frills airline collapsed today, hard on the heels of Aloha and ATA.

"Passengers holding reservations for Skybus flights scheduled to depart on or after Saturday, April 5, 2008 should contact their credit card companies to arrange to apply for a refund," Skybus announced on its Web site. Deja vu redux.

Skybus, based in Columbus, Ohio, lasted less than a year. Even people skeptical about its business model were surprised at how quickly it went under.

It was set up on the Ryanair model that has made flying around Europe so cheap. The idea was to keep fares low – as low as $10 plus taxes and fees for some seats – by flying to secondary airports and charging extra for almost everything, from pillows to checking bags.

I’m not saying it could never work here. But it didn’t. I think Skybus was done in primarily by three factors:

No bench. Skybus tried to fly an aggressive schedule with just a few planes, leaving it very little margin for error. Hit with winter storms or mechanical problems, it canceled flights and offered little or no customer assistance.

Fuel costs. It would have been tough to choose a worse time to start an airline. Huge increases in fuel costs have put away two well-established airlines this week. Did Skybus even have a chance?

Wrong locations. Public transportation is not as widely available in the United States as it is in Europe, so flying into a remote airport can leave passengers with expensive ground transportation problems. Portsmouth isn’t Boston. It’s 60 miles from Boston, and that’s one hell of a taxi fare.

(By the way, good on JetBlue and US Airways for helping stranded Skybus passengers on a standby basis.)


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