A Quick Take on an Upstart: Does Skybus Sink or Soar?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Skybus ( http://www.skybus.com) tempts fliers with fares starting at $10 one way, before taxes. So what does 10 bucks -- or in my case about twice as much (before taxes), since I wasn't lucky enough to score that price -- get you? A seat, overhead space, toilet paper, maybe a cup of ice. Everything else, from checked bags ($5 each, up to two) to beverages (water and soda, $2) to food ($2-$10), is extra. Also, no in-flight entertainment, except for the Fly 'n Shop catalogue.

But Skybus is hardly Greyhound with wings: The Airbus A319 has sleek gray leather seats that are wide, though a bit stingy on the legroom. Seats are unassigned, but boarding went smoothly, and in Columbus we could exit through the front or back doors. The only shocker was when the agent declared a ban on all carry-on eats and drinks, forcing a couple to toss their coffees.

The coed-cute flight attendants dress in all-black "uniforms," including a rock-concert-style Skybus T-shirt. They're perky, but that could be by necessity. As one Tara Reid twin told me, some of the employees make only $9 an hour and work on commission. That means for every Bud and breakfast sandwich you buy, the flight attendants get a 10 percent cut; to up sales, they also sell "duty-free" items, such as perfumes and watches. The attendants accept tips, which makes one wonder: Do you tip on your fare or additional purchases?

Despite the tight rules and service-industry vibe, Skybus performed admirably where it mattered: The plane took off and landed on time, and no lost bags. -- A.S.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company