Skybus Airlines Ceases Operations

Skybus has just announced that it will stop flying starting tomorrow, Saturday April 5th. “Skybus struggled to overcome the combination of rising jet fuel costs and a slowing economic environment. These two issues proved to be insurmountable for a new carrier…Our financial condition is such that our Board of Directors felt it had no choice but to cease operations,” said the company in the tombstone posted on its website. The dream of ultra-low-budget air travel was too beautiful to let live…

Either that, or
the are-we-in-a-recession and the rise in fuel prices was too difficult an environment for a new airline with a new kind of pricing structure to take off. The way it tried to work was thus: Tickets started at $10 but prices went up as more passengers booked. Carry-on baggage was free but checked baggage incurred additional fees, as did a slew of other basic amenities. To capitalize on in-flight profit potential, outside food or drink was strictly forbidden, stewards sold everything from food to perfume to watches, and advertisements covered every surface, including the outside of the aircraft. Maybe Americans just aren’t ready for a “strap me to a high-velocity rail” approach to air travel. This marks the fourth airline to stop, or announce they will soon stop, flying this week.

(Photo: Derek Rust)

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  1. newlywed says:

    really? i JUST flew them two days ago and it was awesome!

  2. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    HA HA frickin HA! I hope ALL the airlines go out of business, and the TSA goes under with them!

  3. karmaghost says:

    Is it just me or has flying become this mode of transportation that is ridiculously inefficient and unprofitable? Or, to make a profit, ticket prices have to be prohibitively expensive?

    I’m getting married late this summer and I’m worried that I’m going to have to fly to go on my honeymoon. I haven’t flown in about 8 years and I’ve NEVER flown from within the United States.

  4. APFPilot says:

    @aaron8301: That would be awesome, you know the whole Global Economy coming to a stand still and all….. Dope

  5. Half Beast says:

    @aaron8301: Well, I am not a pilot, and don’t own my own any aircraft (unlike you evidently)…so us peons kind of depend on airlines to go distant places.

    I, for one, find this rash of airlines going under more than disconcerting.

  6. Half Beast says:

    @half-beast: Erm, besides the error I made above, I have to add that this doesn’t seem to be another matter of “bankruptcy as an organizational or financial strategy,” seeing as they hadn’t even enjoyed a year of FAA certification…
    I don’t think they even recouped the cost of their fleet of A319s…

  7. mac-phisto says:

    what really sucks is that they serviced a lot of smaller airfields that don’t have regular service with a major carrier – at least not for any reasonable amount of money.

    i think they just didn’t generate enough investment capital to get off on the right start. how long have they been flying – a year?

  8. holocron says:

    RYAN AIR.

    ‘Nuff said.

  9. WraithSama says:

    I’m not surprised that Skybus is going under, if other stories I’ve read have been the norm regarding their customer service. For a glowing example, look no further than:
    [consumerist.com]

  10. WVCouch says:

    Airlines cost BIG bucks to run. Their business model hinges on fuel. The cost of Jet A has gone from 3.10 a gallon to 4.60 in about 4 weeks. Airlines will continue to go belly up as fuel prices rise, OR they will have to raise their fares.

    What is reasonable to some will not be reasonable to most.

  11. jamar0303 says:

    @half-beast: I’m hoping for either a revival of Amtrak as a major transportation force in the US or the introduction of more foreign airlines to US routes (because a big international player like Virgin or Lufthansa or ANA won’t go under quite like these airlines have).

  12. jamesdenver says:

    What do people expect when they buy an airfare for $10.

    No its not blaming the customer – but like any other product when you buy the cheapest, shittiest, bottom of the barrel widget – you shouldn’t expect it to last – and it will break.

    [www.futuregringo.com]

  13. chilled says:

    unfortunately,what ran all these airlines out may put alot of regular businesses out also…high as hell fuel of every sort.what pisses me off is the nat gas,its pruduceright here in the usa,should not be effected by the ragheads!

  14. mr.tank says:

    @jamar0303: I’m with you on this one. I think Amtrack is going to be more involved with transit in the future then it currently is. Especially more ‘bullet trains’ currently I think they only have the washington>nyc route, But I see them in all major city’s in 10 years with the rising cost a gas, the trains could be made to run on electricity or natural gas, ect.

    So unless all the plains start using “coconuts for air fuel” it’s only going to get worse with the gas fees and lack their of.

  15. RandomHookup says:

    @chilled: I’m so proud to be an American right now.

  16. Snarkysnake says:

    Small loss.

    This rickety little shitbag airline never had a chance. I flew them once and it was apparent that this idea needed to go back in the oven because it wasn’t even half baked.Seemed to me that this was a business concept dreamed up on Wall Street – advertise an implausibly low fare and then make the real money on fees and upsells,surcharges and restrictions. Bullshit. INCREDIBLY rude and surly employees (in less than a year ?!) No real customer service to speak of and corporate headquarters apparently located in another solar system…

    The company that owns the planes is, (even as I write) removing the logos,markings and assorted junk from Skybus airlines planes and getting them ready for another group of aircraft cowboys to bring their three bong hit business model to aviation…And so it goes.

  17. beckalina says:

    @RandomHookup: It just warms the cockles of your heart, doesn’t it?

  18. APFPilot says:

    @Snarkysnake: Works great in Europe. I’m glad someone at least tried it here.

  19. Brunette Bookworm says:

    This was very sad to hear. I live in NW Indiana and the Gary airport had just gotten Skybus as a carrier less than a month ago. Gary could be a convenient airport for locals if they could only get a carrier that doesn’t go bankrupt. Chicago keeps talking about a third airport, but could use Gary if only they could get a stable carrier. I was looking forward to trying Skybus and had thought about taking a trip on them this year. It’s sad that the high cost of oil prices is contributing to all these companies bankruptcies. Air travel is going to quickly become out of the price range for the everyday person.

  20. bohemian says:

    Three airlines going under in a week? This is a bit concerning. Not that any of them by themselves were any big transportation powerhouse. This makes fewer flights available, thus jacking up the price even more.

    I don’t know what it is going to take to get the government to actually put some effort and money into Amtrak but it needs to happen pretty soon. Flying everywhere in the continental US is a rather inefficient use of fuel. Not to mention the crazy system it takes to get on a flight these days.

  21. MMD says:

    Yes, it’s beyond strange that 3 airlines would die in a week. However, in this case, as others have mentioned, I don’t think this airline would have lasted even in the best of economies. I’d looked into Skybus when booking a trip recently and couldn’t believe all of the restrictions. Not even the TSA prohibits bringing in outside food! No thanks.

  22. RMK says:

    Living in their hub city of Columbus, I’ve flown Skybus as have many of my friends and family. We all had a great experience with it and we’re sad to see it go.

    Especially since we just booked another trip… last night…

  23. OwenCatherwood says:

    We’re up to 3 airlines and one regional biting the dust this week: Big Sky airlines also called it quits this week.

  24. starrion says:

    Skybus, aloha, Champion air, and ATA.

    Wow.

    Looks like ticket prices will be going up soon…..

  25. Snarkysnake says:

    @APFPilot:

    I’m glad too. More choices = market discipline. These guys just didn’t do it well. It CAN work,IF the owners are well capitalized.These guys were not.

  26. lyndyn says:

    @mr.tank: Not just on the Eastern Seaboard either.

    Denver,CO and Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM all have excellent lightrail systems, and a linking rail between the Albuquerque and Santa Fe systems is currently under construction. There are some pretty complicated negotiations going on between the two states, the City of Denver/RTD, and the Federal government that would result in a passenger rail corridor between Albuquerque and Denver. As I live on the lower Front Range, I would like to see this happen TOMORROW. :-)

    Long-distance, high-speed commuter rail in the interior West would have a huge impact on national fuel consumption; many people in the East are already using public transit between cities, but out here, nobody thinks twice about hopping in their car and driving four hundred miles. That needs to change.

  27. specialed5000 says:

    Skybus’s founder (apparently he left shortly after they became operational last year) has been working on a new low cost airline based here in Charleston, WV.

    [wvgazette.com]

    I was surprised in reading articles about it that they saw they only need $40 million in startup money. I guess that with leased planes it doesn’t take that much to start an airline. I’m guessing that if Jet America ever gets off the ground, fares will start at more than $10.

  28. timmus says:

    Good luck getting Amtrak going. US rail outside the NE corridor is heavily used by Union Pacific, BNSF, and CSX. They already don’t look kindly on passenger rail using their tracks, and this is a major reason for poor on-time performance in the mainland U.S.

  29. youbastid says:

    Shit, well I just bought a R/T ticket from Midwest for a September flight, think they’ll still be around???

  30. badgeman46 says:

    Many startup airlines fail. I once helped start one! We ran out of capital, and the regulatory process is very long. Other one’s you may have forgotten about: Kiwi, Hooters, Tower Air, etc. The problem is not necessarily the costs, but it is the competition. Tickets in the 80’s cost between 500 and 1200 dollars for domestic airfare. Now it can be as cheap ass under $100. Its as simple as people go with the cheapest fare, period, even if it is just a few dollars difference.

  31. WV.Hillbilly says:

    @timmus:
    Absolutely right.
    Until Amtrak has a dedicated set of tracks or a government mandated priority, rail travel will always be second rate in the US.

  32. huntsterUNC says:

    My buddy was sposed to fly back on Skybust this AM. They got an email last nite around 8pm saying that Skybust was closing the doors.

  33. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    @bohemian: Unless I remember wrong, I already thought the goverment WASTED a ton of money by pouring it into Amtrak.

    Amtrak is just like any airline carrier…they are horribly mismanaged. Throwing money at it will only make things worse.

  34. bohemian says:

    @ConsumerAdvocacy1010:

    It is part government and part mismanagement. Some of the mismanagement comes from the government mandates or purposely putting people in charge that are either clueless or have no desire to improve the system.
    Government decisions on Amtrak have been done so as to prevent it from functioning well. Lack of dedicated track is a big contributor. Lack of sufficient funding and planning is another. It is the red headed stepchild of the government agencies.

    The other complaint I hear is that they don’t really turn a profit. Neither does rail in most other countries. It isn’t a profit generating enterprise, it is a public service. The ability to fly or drive is going to become more pinched as gas goes up and people’s spending power goes down.

    I don’t expect the oil man in chief to do anything about it though.

  35. azntg says:

    @bohemian: Indeed.

    But now’s a better time than ever to consider reviving the age of rail travel. We sure as hell have the technology, the right conditions and the legacy as well (though truth be told, American rail travel legacy isn’t as rosy as it’s portrayed… there’s a reason why people eventually started to stick with automobiles instead)

  36. bohemian says:

    @azntg: Exactly. Complaining or trying to find someone to blame is just an easy way to dismiss the entire concept. Europe and Japan have done all the R&D for us. We just need the leadership and the will to do something.

    Honestly is just doesn’t make sense to waste something like 10 times the fuel on flights that could be used on express trains between major cities.

  37. kepler11 says:

    the problem about rail service is that here in the US, people will not use rail to get to a medium distance city (like 4-5 hours), because they still need a car to get around in that destination city. This defeats the purpose of leaving the car behind, if you only have to rent another one when you arrive.

    It is not just a problem about the rail being unaffordable or slow or poorly accessible. It is the very nature of our sprawling cities that makes rail a difficult choice for most people. It works on the east cost (Was, NYC, Bos) because there, people *can* get around without cars. The same will not work for the midwest.

    And for distances greater than 6 hours, people will rather take a 1 hour flight.

  38. huadpe says:

    @bohemian: Lack of dedicated track is a problem, which is fantastically difficult to fix. Adding a straighter (for high speed rail) new train line into or out of a major city is either stupidly expensive and ugly (20+ miles of elevated or subterranean track, and more like 60 miles for NY or LA), or requires the use of eminent domain to take tens of thousands of homes and businesses and put impassible barriers between communities.

  39. LUV2CattleCall says:

    @half-beast:

    All aircraft are leased. There’s a backlog of over 1000 for A320-family aircraft, so the leasing company should have no problem finding new homes for the birds!

  40. jamar0303 says:

    @mr.tank: Why can’t trains run on electricity already? It’s worked fine for Japan.

  41. Patches O'Houlihan says:

    Railroads are much better suited for distribution of goods rather than people. The delivery mechanism of chemicals is safer by rail car than multiple trucks across the country side…….

  42. lyndyn says:

    @kepler11:

    It works on the east cost (Was, NYC, Bos) because there, people *can* get around without cars. The same will not work for the midwest.

    Um, that’s kind of the point I was trying to make upthread. In the town where I live, I can walk or bicycle anywhere. The only reason I own a car is to go to Springs or Denver. Once I get to the city, I park my car in the southern suburbs and use public transit 90+% of the time. If there were practical intercity public transit, I would not own a car. I know I’m not alone in this. So, yeah, it can work.

    I have to drive over an hour to get to a little puddlejumper airport for an hour flight to DIA. Would I take a two-to-three-hour train ride to achieve the same thing? You bet! There are SO many smallish towns out here in the West/Midwest that are relatively inaccessible by air but could be connected to a rail system as efficiently as they’re connected to the interstate highway system. If there’s good urban public transportation at the destination city (yes, that’s a big IF), there’s no reason for intercity connectors not to be successful.

  43. ThatSaabGuy says:

    Good riddance.

  44. WhirlyBird says:

    @aaron8301: Amen to that. I can’t wait until the only airline is our crappy national airline, AmFlight. Think “AmTrak with wings”.

  45. cashmerewhore says:

    They didn’t even tell their employees that Friday was it.

    It saddens me since it was a nice airline, and the $10 tickets were cheaper than gas to get out for a weekend. Our 90 minute flight we were going to take in August has now turned into a 12 hour drive.

    Everybody I’ve talked to who flew skybus had no complaints. The plane I flew on was new, the staff was friendly and I had no complaints paying for food and tipping the attendants.

    @ThatSaabGuy: Why? Other airlines have cut flights out of Columbus. And now it’s just incentive for them to raise their rates more. I’m appalled that people are being quoted $4300 for a family to fly home.

  46. DeltaPurser says:

    Not sure it was their offical slogan, but I was told they had “Only Birds Fly Cheaper” painted on their aircraft… Funny :-)