Skybus Sets Out to Undercut Rivals A low-fare airline will be launched next month, with headquarters at the airport in Columbus, Ohio. Skybus will offer one-way fares for as little as $10 to Burbank, Calif., Richmond, Va., and other locations.
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Skybus Sets Out to Undercut Rivals

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Skybus Sets Out to Undercut Rivals

Skybus Sets Out to Undercut Rivals

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I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

BLOCK: Ten dollars doesn't buy much these days, but if you happen to live in Columbus, Ohio you may be in luck. That's because Skybus Airlines, a new low-cost carrier, is now offering $10 one-way fares from Columbus to places including Burbank, California; Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Richmond, Virginia.

The first flight won't actually take off until next month but tickets are already available online, and only online, as it turns out. As a cost-saving measure, Skybus will have no call center. As the airline's Web site explains, they don't even have a phone number.

Joining us to talk more about this start-up airline is David Field. He is U.S. editor of Airline Business magazine. Thanks for coming in.

Mr. DAVID FIELD (U.S. Editor, Airline Business magazine): It's my pleasure.

BLOCK: And let's start with these cheap seats, these $10 fares. Big caveat here, only a few seats on each plane at that fare.

Mr. FIELD: It's so-called capacity control. There are about 10 for those seats on each flight. Most of the fares will be very low but they're very low for a reason. All you get when you buy a fare on Skybus is the seat. You get…

BLOCK: Everything else is extra.

Mr. FIELD: Almost everything else is extra - checking a bag is extra, food will be extra, getting on to the airplane early will be extra.

BLOCK: Well, do you think an airline like this with fares that will be low, if not $10, can succeed?

Mr. FIELD: I think an airline like this with fares this low can succeed but I don't think it can in Columbus, Ohio. By no means a big town, very much a booming center for finance or business or high tech. This is a relatively small town. It is still a town with a lot of entrenched competition.

Southwest Airlines, the hardest airline in the world to compete against, has about 25 percent of all the capacity, of all of the seats out of Columbus, Ohio. Southwest is a fair player. They will not play dirty but it will be really easy for Southwest to kill Skybus if they want to.

BLOCK: Should passengers be at all concerned about safety…

Mr. FIELD: No.

BLOCK: …on a startup like this?

Mr. FIELD: No. Two reasons, one is the FAA, in particular, has been very, very careful. They'll probably get FAA approval but it's not a rubberstamp, any means. Also, you've got to bring them on in - Skybus is going to be very attractive to pilots who are looking for work. It flies the Airbus, the Airbus A319. You're going to work for this airline because you acquire the skills that can get you a job on JetBlue, on United, on U.S. Airways.

BLOCK: This is a reasonably big plane.

Mr. FIELD: It's about 150 seats. It's a very modern airplane. It's a very smart airplane. It's an airplane that's smart enough that it doesn't let pilots do too many dumb things.

BLOCK: What sort of odds would you give Skybus for survival? You seemed pretty skeptic to me.

Mr. FIELD: Right now is probably not a good time to be starting an airline. If you look at what the big airlines have been experiencing in the last couple of months, there's a slowdown. There's a slowdown in demand. It's negative for some airlines on domestic routes. The only place airlines are raking it in is on international routes. This airline doesn't have any. The economy is starting to soften a little bit.

We will have to see what corporate travel budgets are like but no, I don't think it's a good time to be starting an airline, particularly, since the airlines that was started just a few years ago - JetBlue, AirTran - are growing rapidly and they're moving into the kinds of airports that Skybus wanted to go into but couldn't afford to.

BLOCK: Well, we'll see how it goes. David Field, U.S. editor of Airline Business magazine, talking about the new low-cost carrier, Skybus Airlines, starting up in Columbus, Ohio. Thanks for coming in.

Mr. FIELDS: My pleasure.

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