Skybus goes SkyBUST
It was a tough weekend for some airline travelers at Port Columbus. Some Skybus passengers were left stranded after the airline folded. Skybus will be in court Monday to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
"It's crap," Becky Blake said.
That's the best way Blake from London, Ohio can describe her situation. In October, Blake bought two round-trip tickets on Skybus to Punta Gorda, Florida. She paid $350 total.
Blake said she and her husband heard Skybus was ceasing operations on the news Friday night.
"So we were scrambling on-line to get tickets with another airline, and, let's just put it this way, paid three times as much. I'm serious," Blake said.
But it's not like Skybus's closing was without warning signs. First, Skybus's CEO Bob Diffenderfer quit. Then, vice president of operations Bud Sittig resigned. Forty-eight hours before the airline shut down WOSU asked the airline's spokesperson Bob Tenenbaum if customers had anything to worry about. He said no.
"I think if they should be worried it's about not getting to the website fast enough to get the $10 ticket. But, I think it's a valid question. But the answer is, no, they should not be worried," Tenenbaum said.
After the shutdown, Tenenbaum declined to be recorded for broadcast. He said the Skybus board met Friday afternoon, and that's when the decision was made to halt operations. Skybus cited rising jet fuel costs and a slowing economy for why it decided to call it quits. Jill Taricani flew into Columbus Friday night from Connecticut. Taricani said it was not until she landed that she found out she'd have to find another way home. And it was not Skybus who told her. Taricani said she over heard it from another carrier.
"How does that make you feel? Just kind of sad and scared. You know, I hope I can find a flight home at some point. I'm sure I'll be able to though," Taricani said.
There were no Skybus representatives at the counter over the weekend. Instead there were three folding tables. Hanging from the front of the tables were sheets of paper with former Skybus destinations printed on them in bold type: Boston, Burbank, Chattanooga, Fort Lauderdale, Philly, Richmond. The list goes on. Customers went to the table, found their particular destination and a print out with alternative flights and carriers.
Aaron Hennen and his wife, Kerri, are teachers from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The couple, originally from Columbus, were in town looking for teaching jobs.
Aaron just rejoined his wife who was in line at the Delta Airlines counter. He had picked up the Skybus announcement that was also in a stack on one of the tables.
"It just tells us that we're not working any more. They just up and quit," Aaron Hennen said. Aaron and Kerri did find a couple of flights back to Fort Lauderdale, but not at the same price.
"We have to pay double the amount of money for plane tickets. They'll still get their severance package I'm sure. But it leaves us out," Aaron Hennen said.
Skybus spokesperson Bob Tenenbaum said he's not sure what's in store for the airline's employees. He said they were told to come to work Monday where people will be there to meet with them about their benefits.
The city and state had a lot invested in this operation. They put up $57 million incentives and support. Columbus's Director of Development Boyce Safford said there were about 350 people employed with Skybus in Columbus.
"Hopefully between the city and other entities involved we can help those workers make a transition," Safford said.
For some Skybus going bust was not a shock. The airline lost $16 million during its first three months of operation. That was based on an operating revenue of $22 million.