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Skybus begins flying, but will consumers get onboard?

Let’s say you find a fare from Columbus to Los Angeles for the super-cheap price of $10 each way. How would you tailor your expectations? With such an affordable price, would you be willing to forego complimentary snacks and beverages, and pay extra for priority boarding? Would you be willing to travel to second-tier cities, rather than major hubs?

Skybus is banking on consumers answering “yes” to the above questions. The new ultra-low-cost carrier, which officially took to the skies yesterday, is offering radically inexpensive tickets to 15 cities from its Columbus headquarters, with routes including Ft. Lauderdale, Burbank (Los Angeles), and Bellingham (Seattle). The airline is hoping to compete with other low-cost carriers such as Southwest.

As a lifelong budget traveler, I was initially intrigued by Skybus’ product. However, the focus on Columbus and secondary airports—meaning I’d generally have to travel out of my way to get wherever I may want to go—somewhat mitigates the benefit of the new airline’s prices. Air travel is already a hassle, with its arduous security screenings, expensive airport parking, and other time-sucking requirements. To arrive in a faraway suburb of my main destination may be one inconvenience too many.

On the other hand, somebody at Skybus thinks price conquers all. And I suppose smaller destinations may be appealing to travelers, anyway. For example, my family is spread out across the country, and many don’t live near a major airport hub. I’m always looking for low airfares to Harrisburg, a smaller airport closest to my hometown. Since the airport isn’t a high-traffic spot, fares are typically expensive (and flights infrequent). Often, I forego flying and just take a long road trip home. Should Skybus expand their map, and maintain affordable fares with decent flight times, I’d be open to trying them out.

If Skybus can find and cater to enough other travelers with similar needs, it may cement its place within the U.S. air travel industry.

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