While airlines such as JetBlue and the former Song (now Delta) work to increase the number of free amenities they can offer their passengers another airline is bucking the trend. Song vied for a younger, more stylish crowd by offering in-seat entertainment systems at every seat. The small seat-back screens featured satellite TV supplied by DISH Networks, configurable MP3 playlists consisting of preloaded songs, and games that pit passengers playfully against each other. JetBlue founder, adult-ADD businessman David Neeleman founded his new enterprise (then called NewAir) with the idea that he couldn't be the only one that needed help making it through a flight without getting antsy. Neeleman's new network would have low-cost fares with the same entertainment systems usually incorporated into first class or international fares bearing a larger sticker price.
Rather than build up their feature list while trying to keep their prices in perspective, SkyBus cuts out all of the frills to offer coast-to-coast flights starting at as low as ten dollars. Based on European airline Ryanair and modeled loosely after the early years of US airline Southwest, SkyBus does without in-seat entertainment or TVs of any kind, complimentary meals or drinks, or even blankets. Perhaps most shocking of all is the airline's decision to charge for each checked bag. The small price (just five bucks a bag) is certainly within reason, but will customers pay for something they're used to getting for free? Skybus CEO Bill Diffenderffer thinks so. "If you pay $80 for a Skybus flight instead of $180 for a competitor's flight, and you pay $5 for a bag and $2 for a soda, that's $87 versus $180. America can do that much math."
But how about the airline's payment structure for flight attendants: commission. This probably won't lead to an overnight transition from flight crew to used car salesmen, but having your flight attendant even come close to anything resembling a hard sell doesn't sound too great either. The closest thing to for pay in-flight extras (minus those airphones, did anybody actually use those?) is most likely JetBlue's movie service, available on demand for a few dollars via a creditcard reader next to your seat-back TV screen.
It is difficult to say whether SkyBus will be successful. Certainly there will be a more money-conscious clientèle willing to use, but only if its convenient. Right now that isn't the case, as the airline flys to just under 20 cities, mainly on the east coast, and almost every flight originates or terminates in Columbus, Ohio. The airline is adding new cities about every two months, however, and expects to launch a more flexible flight schedule with Columbus appearing on fewer itineraries soon.