Tuesday, June 19, 2007

SkyBus Review

Disclosure First: I fly almost 100,000 miles a year and 99% of those miles are business travel (After all that "on demand" travel, I just don't feel like leaving home for leisure). My opinion is unavoidably biased by this fact and what's important to me is shaped by the amount of time I spend on planes and in airports.

So, the Skybus flight? Overall Impression: Really Good. Surprisingly good, as a matter of fact.

Skybus has an easy to use website, which is the only way to book a flight and as a cost saving measure, they have no customer service number to call. All communication is conducted through the website. If you like to ask questions to a live person, this isn't the airline for you.

I booked my flight to Columbus five days before I was to travel. A flight to Cincinnati (my real destination) booked on the same day priced out at $998.50. The Skybus flight was $251.00 round trip, plus $5.00 to check one bag. I chose not to pay the $10.00 to upgrade to priority boarding status, a decision that wasn't easy. There weren't any $10.00 fares left for purchase for any date in June, but there were some $20.00 and $30.00 fares.

24 hours before departure, Skybus sent me an email reminder, telling me that on-line check in was now available. I clicked the link and checked in (including printing boarding passes) in less than 5 minutes. The website is intuitive and easy to navigate.

We left the house and I was standing at the bag check kiosk at Pease Airforce Base in 17 minutes. I waited three minutes for an agent to become available, handed her my boarding pass and ID. She scanned the bar code and checked my bag in less than a minute.

She directed me to security, where three people were ahead of me to clear security. (Skybus is the only commercial airline to operate out of this terminal; they have one gate, so it's logistically very easy--just so long as you don't want to grab a bite to eat while you wait for your plane. That's not an option.)

The Skybus gate doesn't have any where near enough seats. It also doesn't have near enough space for those not getting a seat to stand. It was cramped, awkward and far too warm.

The plane from Columbus landed at 9:00. It was deplaned and ready for boarding within about 15 minutes. The boarding process is cattle call, a la South West's process. First come, first served within each of the three boarding groups, but unlike SW, Skybus hasn't quite worked out the kinks of the cattle call. Some people in group one didn't realize where they should be and boarded with group three, but most people were very good natured.

I was seventh from last to board the plane, and I was pretty panicked by visions of middle seats next to screaming, cracker-throwing babies. No worries. I somehow snagged an exit row, aisle seat, with an empty middle seat. Sweet. The plane was clean, the seats were roomy.

We took off on time. We landed on time. In between, the flight crew tried to sell me water, food, sunglasses, chocolates and an electronic Sudoku game. The in-flight sales pitch was the only part of the experience that I found to be negative--it felt smarmy and cheap, but that's just me. You can't take on any food or drink, you must buy it from Skybus and while I understand their business plan, I was surprised at how hard they pushed the food and beverages. I was pretty happy when I could put in earbuds and listen to music.

The crew was a bit over-zealous in their management of the cabin ('that's not all the way under your seat, sir'), but they were friendly and kind. They seemed to be having fun.

Most of my fellow travelers didn't appear to be road-warriors. They seemed to be leisure travelers, on the flight because it was affordable. There were many families, lots of kids and as someone else noted, the kinds of people you'd expect to see at the bus station, not on a plane, but it wasn't overly noisy and no one tried to run to the bathroom during takeoff.

If I'd paid $600.00 for my ticket (and because of the way our business works, I do that far more than I like to admit), I might rate the experience a little less positively. But given the price point and because it's 15 minutes to the gate from home, I'm very pleased. I'll fly them again. Soon.


Nora said...

Our flight from Pease to Columbus was as you described in this entry. Very nice. I was impressed and pleased!

Flight back (on June 17), another story. Our 7pm flight didn't leave until 3am. And it was pretty horrible. The lack of communication and any real options (to rebook on another Skybus flight- there were only 30 seats on the early morning flight on Monday morning, and 150 ppl on the flight that was delayed) was a terrible experience.

The ground crew were great, and had to relay a lot of bad news, and my fellow passengers were, for the most part, decently humored and accepting of the fact that we couldn't do anything.

The solution that the Skybus folks came up with to solve the problem that the engine of our Portsmouth plane was broken and needed a new part for repairing- which couldn't be done that night - was to wait for a flight that had just left for Burbank CA to get to Burbank, unload, reload, fly back, unload, and reload with us to go back to Portsmouth. So we waited. and waited. Sadly, since I'd parked my car at Pease, I did not have the option to take my $40 skybus refund and go to another carrier to fly into Boston. Even if I could go to Logan (taken the shuttle from there), the fact that Skybus has no relationships with other carriers (according to the staff person) meant that I could only leverage my bargain basement ticket for a fraction of the price of a ticket in order to escape.

I'm not sure what to make of this experience. The flight down was fine, and I know that I have paid much more money to have similar delays. I have another flight out in September, and I'll see how that is before buying any more tickets with Skybus.

Oh, also, even after an 8 hour delay, where there was no food available (they finally passed out bottles of water once at around 1am) they still did indeed charge for food and water on the flight.

Anyway. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

SKybus is the worst carrier i have ever seen.

So our flight is delayed, maybe.. Because it is 11:30pm now, and we suppose to take off from fll now to cmh at 10:58pm. But, no any Skybus people show up at the gate.

Can you believe this? All passengers sitting here wondering what happened, and there is even no body to ask, even we are at the GATE! NOT AT HOME!

So, skybus has no customer service at all? No matter through phone calls or even here? Inside the airport? At the gate?

I will never fly with this company again!

GoBucksDave said...

Fly Skybus!

My wife & I just returned from San Francisco. We flew out of Columbus to Oakland on 8/26 & returned 9/1. While we are not frequent fliers we do fly once to twice a year on average and have experience flying many different carriers. We did NOT pay $10 per seat...and we don't feel slighted one bit. We WILL fly Skybus again, especially in light of the terrible costs of flying out of Cincinnati (our closest major airport).

But we will fly Skybus again for reasons other than cost: they do a great job! Every member of the staff (in flight and on the ground) was polite, courteous, & friendly. Our outgoing & incoming flights were either on-time or early. The food we paid for was good (slightly overpriced BUT, considering the in flight staff is at the lower level of the pay scale...and is so darn pleasant...I don't mind...their service was better than most of the "pros" we've run into from Delta, AA, United, etc.!). Yes..you also will get a sales pitch or two for the "trinkets, treats, and sparkly things" they sell during the flight...but it is NOT high-pressure or bothersome....unless you are one of those people who are annoyed at just about anything. And...please...if you are that type of person, please find some other airline anyway! In fact, the whole Skybus attitude & experience was quite refreshing.

The tips you've probably already read about checking in & printing your boarding passes on-line, getting there early, & standing in line are worth following and remembering. If you can afford the extra $10 for priority seating...do it! If you can't or you just don't care where you sit on a flight...pocket that $10 and enjoy the ride. We don't have young children, so standing in line is no big deal but...if you have children...you'd be wise to bring some entertaining stuff to keep them occupied while you wait.

The planes are new or pretty darn near new. The seats are quite comfortable...and we ought to know after flying 4 1/2 hours one way twice! This is NOT some junky, bargain-basement carrier with crummy planes that may get you there alive. Skybus is...for the average, everyday human being...a great way to get to and from their destinations comfortable and safely.

A few Oakland observations for you: be ready for a different type of airport than Pt. Columbus or Cincy or Indy when you de-plane in Oakland. In comparison, Oakland's airport is less clean, less organized, and generally less friendly than any of the previously mentioned airports. If you take public transportation to get to San Francisco you will take the BART shuttle bus ($3.00 per person) to the Oakland Coliseum stop....change to one of the BART trains (catch the right one...not all of them go to San Fran!) which will vary in cost depending on where you plan to get off in S.F. (you will need to pay BEFORE you go up to the train platform). I strongly suggest you acquaint yourself with both the BART and MUNI systems BEFORE you go and TAKE A COPY OF THE TRANSIT MAPS WITH YOU for reference sake as they are not always as conveniently posted for review as they are in other cities (like Chicago, for example). Also, depending on the time of year you travel, be ready for a higher temperature in Oakland than in San Francisco...so don't just pack clothes for one season if you are weather-sensitive.

We gave Skybus a shot...and were pleasantly suprised. We think you will be, too!

Anonymous said...

My husband, 10 month old and I just flew Skybus to Hartford (Chicopee, MA). It was a GREAT expierence!!! It was my husband's first time flying and now he only wants to fly Skybus! We got the 10.00 seats to and from, our round trip price was 92.60! We flew into the old Westover Air Force Base and it was great! Skybus is the only carrier out of there, so we landed, immediately got off the plane and we were on our way - the return was even better - the only people in security were those on our flight! Can't beat it! They didn't mind that I brought a sandwich on the flight, or juice for the baby. We didn't find the prices too bad for drinks either, a can of Mountain Dew for 2.00 is pricey, but not as much as going to a ball game or a concert! A Starbucks cold coffee drink was also $2.00, a bargain compared to what it costs in a convenience store! I didn't find that the flight attendants pushed any duty free items at all, just walked quietly down the isle. I was surprised to hear that a lot of people book 10.00 flights and NEVER SHOW UP!!!! That is a waste - leave it to those (like us!) that only want to fly Skybus, over and over again! I already have our Christmas tickets purchased - 168.00 for all 3 of us!CAN'T GO WRONG IN MY BOOK!

Anonymous said...


First I would like to inform what happened-

We (myself & my wife) had booked a ticket (on 19-Aug-07) for Columbus, Ohio (Flight# 215); scheduled to leave Oakland on 22-Nov-07 at 2pm PST.

The ticket was booked long ago so as to take take advantage of low price and plan early for the Thanksgiving holidays. We were new to USA and our relatives at Columbus bought the ticket for us as a gift. We started counting dates from that day...

We had arrived at the Oakland airport today much before time and got our Skybus Boarding passes issued, paid for the check-in bag at the Skybus kiosk, and handed over the same to the Skybus staff sometime around 12:30pm.

The Boarding pass clearly stated that the boarding time=1:40pm and the flight departure time=2pm (at Gate# 4).

We decided to have some food in the lounge itself as the food was in our cabin-bag and perhaps would not be allowed during the security checkup prior to boarding. We're done by 1:20pm and proceeded towards the security check around 1:25pm. We took a plastic zipper-bag from an airport officer (before the security-desk) for my wife's cosmetics to be put into it. Once done, we proceeded towards the security-check. It took some time at the security-check as the officers requsted us to open one of our bags and wished to do some verification. So the security check took some mote time than usual.

Once done, we immediately headed towards the Skybus desk at Gate# 4. It was approx 1:45pm then. But we were surprised to find that the Skybus desk had neither any agents nor any passengers. But we could see the Skybus air-craft from the glasses behind the counter. As nobody was not there, we asked some airport staff about the Skybus agents/boarding-staff, who then advised us to wait for the agent near the boarding gate, which opens to the tunnel to the air-craft. We could see a lady at the end of the tunnel and then knocked on the glass-door. After a few knocks, the lady came and opened the gate; she happened to be the Skybus boarding agent. When we asked her about our flight, she gladly said that it had already left. It was little before 1:50pm then and we could see the air-craft slowly moving away from the tunnel, the tug-vehicle still attached to its front. It was not even on the actual runway...

We requested the Skybus agent several times to contact the Air-traffic control or concerned airport officer to direct the pilot to return back to the tunnel because the scheduled/published departure time was 2pm. My wife cried and pleaded for help. We literally prayed to her for contacting the pilot somehow, but she continuously said the following-
1.we should have been at the boarding-gate 30min before flight departs (we collected boarding-passes and checked-in our bag 1hr 30min before departure time)
2.once the air-craft leaves the tunnel, it can't be contacted and hence can't be brought back
3.she had paged in the airport public address system because we were the only passengers missing (we never heard that in the public address system, anyway)
4.as per FAA rules and Skybus contract, flights can leave earlier than the scheduled time. (We never found that clause in the reservation confirmation mail we received from Skybus)
5.whatever we need to do, we have to do online from Skybus website

As we were engaged in pleading the agent, we noticed the Skybus air-craft leave for the run-way after 1:55pm, but before 2pm - with our checked-in bag inside it. My wife was very much traumatised with this incident and could have collapsed any moment at that time.

The agent said that she had closed the boarding-gate leading to the tunnel at 1:45pm and the air-craft moved out of the tunnel around 1:47pm.

She initially denied to help us or make any arrangements of any kind. Later upon much pleading and requesting several times, around 2:05pm, she decided to call-up somebody at the Skybus Head-office in Columbus. As we continued to grudge in frustration and yelled, she threatened that she would not do any kind of help if we shouted... Somehow, she managed to contact another lady at Columbus, who after hearing from her and us, apologised and said that she would make arrangements for us in the same flight the next day (23-Nov-07 2pm). She changed our reservation without any extra fees and said that she could not do anything else for us. When we enquired about the fate of our alreday checked-in bag, she said that we would get it at the Skybus baggage claims desk at Columbus on 23-Nov-07.

The Oakland Skybus agent showed us the changed reservation at her computer monitor and we took pictures of the same on my mobile-camera for evidence purposes. We also decided to complete the check-in for 23-Nov-07 thereitself at the Skybus kiosk and finally collected our new Boarding passes.

Now my questions-
1.What does skybus mean by "Boarding-time" and "Departure-time" ?
2.If these terms mean what they do generally mean, then why did the flight leave the tunnel at 1:47pm (practically making it impossible for passengers to further get into it)? We've international flight experience and never have faced such a situation that the flight leaves before the scheduled time.
3.The agent herself said that she is supposed to close the tunnel-door 10mintues before the scheduled/published departure time (ie. 1:50pm), then why did she close it at 1:45pm or so?
4.Can any flight depart before it's published departure time (printed on the Boarding-pass)? It's neither logical nor ethical. If there's any such FAA regulation or any clause in the Skybus contract, please show us the same. Moreover, we had given our attendance and collected our Skybus passes much before 1:40pm; so why should not the aircraft wait for us till the published Deaprture time?
5.Though Skybus has changed our reservation to 23-Nov-07 and saved us from huge monetory losses; but how can Skybus repay or make-up for the trauma and harrassment we had to suffer? All our holiday plans have been jeopardised, we had planned months ago... Can Skybus do anything for that loss? Our relatives at Columbus were also as counting minutes and enthusiastically waiting for us with whole lot of preparations... this incident is similarly frustrating for them as to us.Can Skybus or it's agents/employees understand these sentiments & emotions? Our holiday plans got obstacled even before starting.


Anyway, we returned home after 9:15pm PST and noticed that there was a phone-call from Skybus Airlines (614-947-3000) around 8:40pm PST (11:40pm EST). We tried several times to contact Skybus staff at the above ph-nbr, but it always went to a voice-mail, which was full and hence we couldnot leave a message. We don't have voice-mail setup in our land-line.

We're really frustrated & disheartened. We're completely shattered with this incident and hence would always discourage my realtives, friends, colleagues and all others to fly by Skybus airlines.


mk said...

I see that Skybus doesn't allow outside food in the aircraft. Do they just not allow food, or don't allow consumption of it on-board? I mean what if you are taking food for consumption at the destination ... of course subject to TSAs regulation on liquids and gels.

Anonymous said...

I should probably just keep my mouth shut, but I've read several really whiny reviews of Skybus in the past ten minutes. By the way, I am currently sitting in CMH, waiting to catch my flight to Westover in MA. It was scheduled to leave in 20 minutes, but it'll be at least another 3 hours. I guess the weather has something to do with it. Honestly I don't care. I'm getting where I need to go, I don't have to drive, I've got a day off from work to get there, and the ticket plus bags plus priority boarding cost me a WHOPPING $76.66. Hell, the last time I took my family out to a crappy restaurant, it cost more than that.

This is my second time flying Skybus. The other was an $80 trip to Boston. My return flight, sure, was 3 hours late. Did I care then? I lost a couple hours of sleep. Big deal.

I've been flying on a regular basis for the past 20 years. In that time, I've had early flights, late flights, re-routed flights, broken-down airplanes that had to be emptied and re-boarded, etc etc etc etc. Let me tell you, when it took me 16 hours to get from SC to Washington DC, and the ticket cost me $400, I was a little more upset, but I didn't cry about it, nor did I feel I had a right to harrass anyone over it.

Whenever someone gets upset that things don't go exactly as they want them to, I think it's just really funny. What the hell is throwing a fit going to do about it? "Oh, jee whiz, Mr. Cranky-pants! Since you threw an absolute bitch-fest, I guess I will personally go get you your own plane, and stock it with your favorite foods and a nice lavender-scented sachet for you to lay your delicate little head upon, and I will personally guarantee that the pilot will fly it so quietly and smoothly that your dreams of your perfect little world will not be disturbed in the slightest."

Good lord, how is it that you folks with the constitution of wet newspaper get through a real trauma? Your wife was going to collapse because her luggage left without her? Jeezus. She must suffer from a horrible auto-immune disorder or something. It's probably not safe for her to be flying anyway.

I live in a society full of whiny little babies.

And, before you point this out, I'm fully aware of the irony that I'm whining about them.

Relax, people.


LOL @ NotWhoRUPepole... well, well, well.. lets look at the Columbus dispatch.. can we say goodbye and good riddance to $10 flights.. The US economy cannot support an airline like this.. Bad Customer Service and now a most deffiently strike/walk-out by the pilots will most likely be the end of Skybird... my projection for Skybird is this:

Skybird pilots who are asked to go and get your own water for the employee lounge on their off time,will sign union contracts by april... you get paid 1/2 the salary to fly the plane and now have to be the delivery service as well.. that's great management!!!!
I smell a STRIKE as soon as may which coincidentally is when Skyhut will release there 4th quarter profit earnings (I mean losses for Skyrut) I figure losses close to 35 million dollars will be inline for their 4th quarter, which is suppost to be the most profitable quater of the year.
Skyhub will have no choice but to give a 25% raise to their well deserved pilots and co-pilots resulting in larger fairs, giving southwest the number one spot back by mid-july and blaming their employees for the higher prices publicly.. The bad publicity the organization creates on themselves from trying to blame employees will have horrible effects on the staff and crew, resulting in another strike from pilots and causing flight attendants (however dumb they may be for getting paid $7.75 to $9.00 and hour when they could have gotten hired on another airline for $16.00 to $23.00 an hour) to join a union resulting in a strike from the FA by late october...
I predict that Skyruput will be out of business by December 2008, 19 months after takeoff to Burbank.

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