Wednesday, April 9, 2008
My buddy got taken for about 1,200 dollars. He travels the country a lot, and he booked a slew of flights with the recently bankrupt Skybus Airline. He wasn't alone. I read that East Longmeadow's Lacrosse team booked a flight to Ohio with their hard earned $8,800 (washing cars and the like), only to be similarly taken. And by taken, I mean Skybus just suddenly closing up on Friday, it's own employees just as shocked as it's customers. Other stories of canceled vacations and family visits, and costly return trips on major carriers, are all over. Even Chicopee's mayor lost out on his flight to Ohio. Everyone who took a gamble on the low-low priced airline lost their bet. Most people must have known it was too good to be true, but no one expected it to be over so soon, or so suddenly. Some good news: The credit card companies seem to be on the case, and most victims are confident they'll get their fare money back, from what I hear and read. ( Urban Compass has a great post on the whole boondoggle.)
It's too bad. In a way, we all lost. Skybus was using nearby Westover's commercial runway. Chicopee then requested 15 million dollars from the state to improve the terminal at the airport. Everyone was hoping Skybus would be the first of many large, low cost carriers using Westover's commercial airport. It could have been a boon to the valley. Undaunted, Chicopee is still trying to get the money, in hopes the new terminal will lure other carriers...
Innovative, To The Last
Skybus was nothing if not innovative, for better or worse. I wonder if Skybus's smaller labor force was such a good idea though. It seems like a good money saving idea, but it kind of makes me nervous for a transportation company cruising at 40,000 feet to do that. I don't mind paying a little extra in airfare, if it ensures Bob the jet engine mechanic changes that critical o-ring on the gyro-gizmo that turns the do-jobber, during engine maintenance. Also a company with no phone access, can be a bit disturbing. I mean what if you need to reach someone about, oh, I don't know, say, refunding your tickets because the company went bankrupt?
Skybus did come up with some apparently good ideas though, in their effort to lower airfare costs. I liked the idea of no food or drink unless you pay extra for it, and the $5 per bag check in. And also the selling of advertising space on the sides of the planes and crew uniforms. Kind of like, well, buses. Sky-buses. Those are good money saving/money making ideas. Maybe other carriers can use some of those ideas. I remember taking a great flight on Song Airlines a few years back, before they were absorbed by Delta. They weren't rock-bottom priced, but they were far cheaper than the big boys. It was an exceptionally good flight too, both ways. They had nice new planes, and even little tv's on the back of each seat. Each passenger could watch several channels of tv, or see a GPS map of their position at the moment. Pretty innovative for a low cost carrier. I don't know how they did it, but unfortunately it wasn't making them enough profit in the long run. Perhaps low cost carriers were still too new back then, and not enough people wanted to stray from the major airlines.
JetBlue Airlines on the other hand has managed to survive several years and is still going. Maybe they'd be interested in a nice little airport in the valley, with a shiny new terminal...