This past July, I decided to try out Skybus on their run from the “Seattle are”, where I live, to Columbus, Ohio, their hub and (as it just so happens) a place I visit several times a year. Now don’t get me wrong – I travel a LOT, so I’m used to delays, gruff employees and all manner of shenanigans, and trying out a brand-new airline that had only been flying for two weeks was a bit daunting. But I figured what he hell, I got a great price on two one-way tickets (the only way you CAN buy tickets on Skybust) so I threw in and figured I’d give them a shot.
Booking and ticketing online were simple enough, and I received confirmation emails of both my outbound and return flights, which I printed and took with me to the airport. Oh, yeah, let’s mention the airport situation. To save money, it appears that Skybust leases space at outlying airports, not the normal busy (and more convenient) ones closest to a major metro area. So instead of driving to SeaTac for my flight, I had to drive about 90 miles north of Seattle to the Bellingham airport. Wait, Bellingham HAS an airport?? Turns out they do, and it’s little more than a general aviation field with minimal passenger hops to places like Vancouver and Spokane, and it has the tiniest little commercial terminal I’ve ever seen, with one metal detector and manual everything. Quaint, but serviceable, and no complaints there.
Having never flown with them before, I did my online homework well in advance. I was therefore well warned by their website that they save money by not having a call center, nor booking agents, nor emails, nor pretty much anything that resembles customer service. You book your flights, you takes your chances. I knew I would be carrying one very heavy bag, so I read the rules – over 50 pounds would incur a $50 fee, and nothing over 75 pounds would be accepted. No problem, I’m used to paying the overweight fee when necessary, but a little voice told me to stuff an empty rucksack in there, just in case – and it’s a good thing I did. I printed out my confirmation emails, and make the two-hour drive north.
WHen I got to the Bellingham airport, I was surprised to discover that Skybust doesn’t have a desk at the terminal like the other airlines (Delta, Alaska and Horizon). Oh no, their counter is down the walkway, outside, and in a DOUBLE WIDE. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried. So in I went, and discovered two very harried female counter employees fighting with their booking computers. While I attempted to check in with the automated kiosk, I repeatedly heard the Windows reboot sound over and over again…not a good sign. When (of course) the kiosk wouldn’t let me check in, I got to the counter and was met by the nastiest, rudest airline employee I’d ever encountered. THis woman was loud, abusive to EVERYONE, and had no patience whatsoever with anything. She mentioned how they were having computer problems and that their tech guys weren’t answering their phones. That’s when I noticed they didn’t actually have “phones” on their counters; instead, the employees were using their own personal cell phones. Ooookay. After they got their computers to boot and register, they went to log me in – and of course couldn’t find me in the records. No problem, I had my printout, I showed it to them.
This is where things started to get really interesting. The lovely rude woman insisted that I wasn’t on the fllight – not like it’s hard to find, Skybust only flies one flight a day out of Bellingham, and that was the one I supposed to be on. She insisted that I wasn’t on the flight. When I showed her the printout, she simply shrugged and said, for the first of three times that day, “Sorry, not my problem.” Excuse me?? I was so stunned that I didn’t have a comeback for that. She just looked at me, mute and smiling, like that answered allt he problems in the world. When I tried to reason with her and show her that I did in fact have a printout with today’s date on it, she again said “sorry, not my problem, you’re not on the manifest for today’s flight. It says here that you were on yesterday’s flight.” And left it at that. This perplexed me, as I pointed out to her that this would be quite impossible, as the flight back from Columbus was about 90 minutes out, and yet I was STANDING RIGHT HERE. Again with the “sorry, not my problem.”
Fortunately for me, a good friend was also flying Skybust that day, and was behind me in line. He put is hand firmly on my shoulder and pulled me gently away, lest I blow any major arteries. The rude lady and I went back and forth until I asked to speak to a supervisor, at which point she said “we don’t have any supervisors here, we’re all contractors and work independently.” Whaaa? Okay, well, how about you get on the phone and call someone? “Sorry, there’s no one to call, we don’t have a central call center.” Well no kidding. SO what, exactly, are we to do about this, I asked? “Oh, I’m not going to do anything,” she said, “you’re either going to buy a new ticket on today’s flight, or you’re going to leave right now.” Huh, is that so. Okay, fine, how much? $440. This was twice what I’d paid for the round-trip ticket in the first place, but I was in mo more mood to argue, knowing that I’d simply charge this back off my Visa when I got back.
SO the rude lady sold me another ticket to Columbus, then proceeded to go about checking my bags. One came up 71 pounds, as I knew it would, and which she pointed out to me. I was ready for this, and handed her my Visa card. “Oh no, SIR, we won’t take any bags over 50 pounds here.” Again we danced back and forth about what the website clearly indicated, and what she was telling me, and again with the “sorry, not my problem, no bags over fifty, period. Even if we could, we have no way to charge you for an over-weight fee.” Wait, didn’t you just take $440 on my Visa? Never mind. Fine. I pulled some bags and packed a third bag, which appeared to make her happy – and allowed her to cheerfully inform me that there would be a $75 third-bag fee! WTF?!? By this point I was just apoplectic about the whole thing, so I allowed ehr to check my bags in utter silence. When she finally finished, she smiled, handed me my ticket and said “here ya go, the door’s fifty feet behind me, do try not to miss this flight.” Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me.
I seethed for another hour, my friend equally perplexed by this whole thing. Getting on was fine, if unorthodox – no jetways there, just airstairs, and the flight was uneventful as well, other than the “50/50″ pot-splitting raffle the flight attendants ran and their incessant peddling of the catalog goods every ten minutes.
But wait, it gets better. While in Columbus, I decided to track down the corporate offices and see if I could speak to a real human being, in person. No dice – I couldn’t find them anywhere. SO I went to the Skybust website and sent an email complaint, which was a basic form email page. When I submitted it, along with the full details and full name of the employee, I got a confirmation page that said “Thanks for letting us know about your problem. We may or may not get back to you. Good luck!” Unfuckingbelievable. When the time came to fly out of Columbus, the staff was quite friendly and helpful, and the flight back was equally smooth and uneventful (except another round of in-flight gambling and non-stop commercials.) WHen we landed back in Bellingham, it turned out I was the last person off the plane. As I was walking down the airstairs, I was met by someone coming up – none other that the rude witch who had been so nasty to me when I’d left! I went to move by her and ignore her, but she stopped in my way and said “hey, I remember you! You’re the jackass who sent our corporate offices a complaint email about me and demanded I be fired! Well good luck, bucko, you’re gonna have to try a lot harder than THAT!” And proceeded to walk by me up into the plane.
This whole thing is for real. I couldn’t have made this shit up if I had tried. Not only will I never, ever fly Skybust again, no matter HOW cheap the fares, but I am actively evangelizing against them to everyone and anyone I know from around here. Cheap is one thing, but nasty rude and incompetent is completely uncalled for!
Yikes. Looks like once you add all the extra fees and mistakes, you’d be better off with a real airline.