A closer look at Skybus Airlines's plans
Skybus Airlines will offer cheap, no-frills flights out of St. Augustine to its hub in Columbus, Ohio, with the expectations that it will add flights from St. Augustine to other cities.
The following information is from an interview with Edward Wuellner, executive director of the St. Augustine, St. Johns County Airport Authority, and Michael Slingluff, general manager of Galaxy Aviation of St. Augustine, and from other reports:
Q: When does Skybus expect to begin flights from the St. Augustine Airport?http://staugustine.com/stories/060107/news_4629550.shtml
A: July 18.
Q: Skybus's hub is in Columbus, Ohio, but will flights from St. Augustine be offered to other destinations?
A: Not initially. For the first year, the flight from St. Augustine will only go to Columbus, Ohio. From there, fliers will be able to take another flight to other cities serviced by Skybus. The carrier hopes to add flights every year from St. Augustine to different destinations.
Q: What flights are offered from Columbus, Ohio?
A: Passengers can buy tickets to 11 other airports.
Q: Where else does Skybus offer service?
A: Skybus serves eight cities from its hub in Columbus, Ohio. It offers one flight a day to Columbus, Ohio, from Burbank, Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; Richmond, Va.; Portsmouth, N.H.; Bellingham, Wash.; Greensboro, N.C.; Fort Lauderdale; and Oakland, Calif. St. Augustine will be the ninth city it serves.
Q: Are there connecting flights?
A: No. A passenger going from Fort Lauderdale to Oakland, say, would pay a fare for each leg of the trip and would have to collect baggage and re-enter the terminal in Columbus.
Q: Are there reserved seats?
A: No. Passengers buy tickets online, check in online or at a kiosk at the airport and board the plane. Customers pay extra to check baggage, board early, get updated flight information sent to their cell phone and for blankets and snacks.
Q: How much will the flight cost?
A: The first 10 seats booked on the 156-passenger flight cost $10, not including taxes and fees. After that, tickets can get as high as $230, depending on how far out the person books the flight.
Q: Is the flight one-way?
A: Yes. It is a nonstop flight that will leave St. Augustine at 3:09 p.m.
Q: Are travel arrangements easy?
A: They can be tricky because the airline only offers one flight a day in and out of the cities it covers. For example, the one flight out of Fort Lauderdale doesn't arrive in Columbus until 12:52 a.m., and the earliest flight out of Columbus is the 6:30 a.m. flight to Richmond.
Q: Will there be parking available at the St. Augustine Airport?
A: Yes. Northrop Grumman leases a large parking lot from the Airport Authority, but because it is hardly used, they will cut their lease and give it back to the Airport. This will give hundreds of parking spaces about 300 feet from the Skybus terminal.
Q: What do you mean it is a "no-frills" flight?
A: It's sort of like a Costco, bright and clean, but not fancy. You do everything yourself. You check yourself in through the Internet at a kiosk. If you want something to eat or drink on the plane, you buy it.
Q: Is that how Skybus keeps the flight so cheap?
A: Yes. Because it's a do-it-yourself airline, it skimps on personnel. For example, it does not have a phone number that people can call. Customers can only use e-mail. There also is no one manning a ticketing counter because customers check themselves in.
And it allows advertising on both the inside and outside of the Skybus fleet. The airline also uses A319 full-size jets, a fuel-efficient aircraft.
Q: Will additional security be brought in?
A: The airport is getting approval for Transportation Security Administration screening equipment.
Q: Will the airport have to build a new runway or terminal for Skybus?
A: Construction of a new terminal will begin Monday. A new runway will not be needed.
Q: How much will the St. Augustine Airport gain annually from Skybus?
A: The net income will be a couple hundred thousand dollars a year.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.skybus.com