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Sat, May 12, 2007

SkyBus Officially Cleared To Fly

FAA Issues LCC Final Certification

Rookie low-fare carrier Skybus Airlines earned final certification from the Federal Aviation Administration Thursday, clearing the way for its scheduled May 22 launch.

"FAA certification is the final hurdle," said Ken Gile, the president and chief operating officer of Skybus. "We are ready to take our place in the US airline community."

The carrier's first scheduled flight is a 9:36 am departure May 22 from its hub in Port Columbus, OH to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, CA.

As ANN reported, the carrier will start by offering nonstop service from CMH to the Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay and Seattle/Vancouver areas, and to Ft. Lauderdale, Richmond, Kansas City and Greensboro/Winston-Salem with $10 tickets available on every flight.

On May 29, Skybus adds three more destinations: Fort Lauderdale, FL; Greensboro, NC; and Bellingham, WA which will serve the Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, markets, according to the Columbus Dispatch. June 12 opens service to San Francisco Oakland International Airport; other destinations will be announced later.

The carrier has taken some rather unique steps in curbing its costs to keep its fares low. For example, the first two bags checked are five dollars each, then $50 a bag thereafter. The carrier plans to offer no frills at all -- no in-flight entertainment, few gate agents, no preferred seating... even no phone number.

You read right -- the company doesn't allow customers to call them. Passengers are referred to the company's website for any needs that may arise. Also... if you're late for your flight, don't even think about asking them to wait... because they won't. It's an effort by Skybus to minimizing the time its aircraft are parked at gates or spending time taxiing on runways.

Skybus will offer a full cocktail bar and food menu -- cash only, please. The same goes for pillows and blankets, which passengers would be allowed to keep if they purchase them.

"We know travelers are looking for really low fares and nonstop flights, and we believe our pricing structure will not only attract current flyers, but open up the market to many others who now find air travel simply too expensive," Bill Diffenderffer, Skybus CEO, said. "Our strategy is to 'decomplexify' airline operations in ways that keep costs down while making flying as simple and convenient as possible for passengers."

The carrier has attracted $160 million in startup capital from investors. It was also awarded $14 million in incentives from the Columbus City Council.

By comparison, JetBlue, one of the most successful start-ups in US airline history, raised only $130 million before its launch eight years ago.

Skybus' origins can be traced the mid-1990s when co-founders Gile and John Weikle, working with JPMorgan, tried to organize Heartland Airlines based at Dayton, OH. The project failed to raise the necessary capital to launch and was abandoned after the 9/11 terror attacks, according to USA Today.

(Photo courtesy of Derek Rust)

FMI: www.skybus.com

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