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Meals on Skybus Run From $6 for A Sandwich to $10 for a Full Meal

Skybus Airlines, a new discounter which introduced service to San Diego on July 16, could give Southwest Airlines a run for its money.

Dallas-based Southwest has a 35 percent share of the local passenger market. The startup, based in Columbus, Ohio, offers at least 10 seats daily for $10. That’s not an introductory offer. It will run indefinitely, said company spokesman Bob Tenenbaum. The fares, which are all nonstop direct, and are routed to and from Columbus, go from $10 to $20, $50, $75, then $100 and up to a top price of $390 one way, depending on availability.

You had to be quick to get the deeply discounted fares because none are left for flights that are departing from San Diego through March 6, the end of the current reservation schedule. But there are still bargains to be had. In mid-July the airline’s Web site advertised fares from San Diego to Columbus from $150 to $280 through the end of the month. Some seats in August could be had for as little as $100 and in September, seats were available for $100 and $125.

The carrier flies French-made AirBus A-319s, which have 144 seats. While 65 new planes are on order, Tenenbaum doesn’t expect them to start arriving until the end of 2008.

Skybus began service on May 22 with four leased planes and added a fifth for its longer hauls this week.

It flies twice daily nonstop routes to Burbank and to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

It also offers daily nonstop service to the Seattle-Vancouver area through Bellingham International Airport in Washington; to Oakland; Richmond, Va.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Greensboro, N.C. Additionally, it offers one flight a week on Saturdays to Portsmouth, N.H., near Boston.

If you’re one of the lucky ones to get a $10 seat from San Diego to Columbus on an upcoming schedule and another $10 hop to Chicopee, Mass., which by the way is the home of Blue Seal brand Polish kielbasa, you would be able to say you flew from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts for less than it would cost to drive from here to Jacumba. Or less than the price of popcorn and a Coke at the movies, or a 5-pound package of Blue Seal Polish kielbasa.

How about this for a motto? “You are now free to roam about the country as long as you stop in Columbus first.”

People cobble routes together, but the airline doesn’t recommend it, as there are apt to be lengthy layovers, perhaps even overnight, Tenenbaum pointed out.

Aside from San Diego, Skybus initiated daily nonstop flights to Hartford, Conn., and on July 18 was expected to add St. Augustine, Fla., to the roster.

Selling seats isn’t the only way Skybus expects to make money. Interior advertising on laptop trays and exterior advertising is another. To have a company’s logo emblazoned on the side of a plane for a year, Skybus is asking $500,000, but that price is negotiable.

Meals run from $6 for a sandwich to $10 for a full meal. Alcoholic drinks are $5. Carry-on baggage , one bag plus one personal item , is free, but checked bags cost extra. The first two pieces of luggage under 50 pounds will cost $5 apiece and each additional bag will run $50. There’s also a charge for overweight baggage.

Like Southwest, seating is first-come, first-served. However, passengers may opt to pay $10 each way for an assigned seat.

While customers have logged some complaints about flight delays and not enough food stocked on board, those glitches are being worked out, Tenenbaum said.

Some industry analysts question the viability of the new airline. However, it was launched with $160 million in equity capital, which he said, to his knowledge “is the best-financed startup airline in the history of this country.”

Meanwhile, Skybus has applied to the Department of Transportation for permission to begin flights to both Mexico and the Bahamas, commencing in October with nonstop service between Columbus and Nassau in the Bahamas, and Columbus and Cancun, Mexico.


Send tourism and hospitality information to Connie Lewis via e-mail to

clewis@sdbj.com

. She may also be reached at (858) 277-6359.

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