Head on over to Skybus.com and you’ll see the brand new website launched this morning. (It’s been timing out on me a lot – not a good start.) They’re now taking reservations, and true to their word, they’re going to be flying by the middle of May. Initial promo fares start at $10 one way. First, let’s look where they’re flying.
All of these cities will be served from Columbus initially, though I really hope they get some non-Columbus routes going for their own sake. Oh, but be careful. In true Ryanair fashion, they’re serving nearby airports so this is a little misleading. Here’s the actual lineup. As mentioned, all cities are served only from Columbus to start:
Burbank (Los Angeles) – once daily on 5/22, twice daily on 6/12
Portsmouth, NH (Boston) – twice daily on 5/22
Kansas City – once daily on 5/22
Richmond – once daily on 5/23
Bellingham (Vancouver/Seattle) – once daily on 5/29
Greensboro – once daily on 5/29
Ft Lauderdale – once daily on 5/29
Oakland (San Francisco) – once daily on 6/12
So now that the schedules are out, we can also talk about the product. Everything that they’re doing is very consistent with the ultra low cost model, but it’s going to be a shock to a lot of travelers.
- Check In – They recommend doing it at home, but there are also kiosks at the airport. I’m guessing those are your only two options.
- Baggage – You can bring one carry on and one personal item onboard for free, but all checked bags cost money. It’s $5 per bag for the first two and then $50 per bag after that.
- Drinks/Snacks – You can NOT bring your own drinks and snacks onboard. How else are they going to make money off of you? You’ll have to pay onboard for any drinks or snacks you’d like to consume on the plane. They aren’t picky about how you pay though. All money is good whether cash or credit. Heck, they’re so desperate they’ll even take Diner’s Club.
- Inflight Entertainment – None. According to their Rules of Flying, you’ll have to bring your own.
- Legroom – If you don’t have any entertainment to bring onboard, you can just count the threads in the seatback in front of you. It’s going to be that tight. Let me put it this way. Those seats everyone whines about being too tight on United, US Airways, American, etc are usually at a 31″ pitch (proxy for legroom). Skybus will have 156 seats on their A319 aircraft. EasyJet in Europe has the same layout and it offers a mere 29″ pitch. Tall people might want to rethink flying these guys.
- Phone Reservations – None. Seriously. They don’t even have a phone number. It’s all email if you can’t find what you need on the website. I find that quite annoying personally. I would hope that at some point they at least get an online chat function up and running.
- Staffing – Not much. They’re going lean here. That’s why you won’t be able to check-in with an agent, and you won’t see gate agents at the gate until it’s time to board.
- On Time – They say you have to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure or you won’t get on. I wouldn’t mess with these guys on this.
- Refunds – None. Seeing a pattern here? There’s a $40 change fee but nothing is refundable. That’s not a bad deal, though if you bought a $10 ticket you’re better off throwing it away.
- Pre-Boarding – If you want to pre-board, that’ll cost you $10.
As you can see, this is definitely a different way to fly. I really hope that anyone who buys a ticket does their homework beforehand, because otherwise they’ll be in for a rude awakening when they get to the airport.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a great idea, but the key is on-time performance and route selection. I think markets like Oakland and Burbank are great, but Greensboro and Richmond? Hmm, not so sure, especially with 156 seats to fill on every flight. They’re going to need to get away from Columbus quickly and start moving into more markets that will support this type of service, but if they do it right, this could be big.
Sounds like pretty standard Ryanair/EasyJet Fare to me, we’re quite used to all this in Europe. I’m 6’3″ and i can manage OK in 29″ for about 2 hours, anymore and it’s a struggle. Wouldn’t fancy Burbank/Columbus in 29″ though. I don’t mind buying a meal on board, but I would object to not being able to take my own food in to the cabin. What are they going to do, search me? I’m sorry sir, but you can’t take that sandwich on board?
I think the food thing sucks, but if I can get from RIC to OAK for under $100 roundtrip? I’m in. This reminds me (and I’m aging myself) of the old PeopleExpress. You knew before you flew that you had to pretty much pay for everything. But it allowed me, a starving college student at the time, to go home more often. The only difference I see is that SkyBus isn’t actually collecting fares onboard. It will be interesting to watch how the traveling public will accept all this.