The Greyhound Bus of the Skies

For the cost of a burger and beer, I bought an airline ticket.

That's right. I flew 667 miles, and it cost me only $10.

I am always looking for a good travel deal, and when I heard about Skybus Airlines, which offers at least 10 seats on each of its flights for $10, I went online and booked a ticket.

And that's the only way to buy a ticket. Skybus takes no-frills flying to a new level. Self-service is the theme here. The airline has no phone number. Passengers are encouraged to check themselves in online or at airport kiosks. About the only thing I didn't have to do was pilot the plane.

First Day of Flights

I decided to fly on the airline's first day of service. The airline is based in Columbus, Ohio, and all flights go through Columbus. I bought a ticket from Portsmouth, N.H., to Columbus, and then back again the next morning.

Both flights were comfortable, but unfortunately, the first one was not on time. The plane left 71 minutes late. Not a great start for a new airline.

Skybus' inaugural flight was a big event. Most of the airport staff came out onto the tarmac to watch the flight. Even some Transportation Security Administration screeners came up to the windows to watch.

The plane — one of two new Airbus A319 jets leased from Virgin America — was roomy and quiet.

Skybus plans to lease 15 planes by the end of the year as it adds capacity. The planes have 144 seats, a few more seats than the typical Airbus A319. Skybus has a contract to buy 65 new jets from Airbus. Those planes will seat 156 passengers, making for an even tighter ride.

Before the plane even took off, Skybus was tempting me to open my wallet. Flight attendants passed out catalogs, offering watches, necklaces, pens, sunglasses, makeup, perfume.

Flight attendants told us about the merchandise long before anybody gave a safety lecture. It was like the Home Shopping Network at 35,000 feet.

Visiting Family

Both flights were a little more than half full. Madeline Moreau, from Lewiston, Maine, was flying to Columbus to see her granddaughter and great-granddaughters. "With the price they were giving us, I couldn't refuse," she said. With taxes and fees, she paid $37, roundtrip.

Leslie Dillon, grew up in the Indianapolis. area, and is now a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire.

"It was only $10 to fly home, and I thought that was a great deal," Dillon said. "As a student, I definitely understand the cutting the corners deal."

A few of the passengers were just along for the novelty of a new airline. Boston-area student Scott Feinberg, an aviation enthusiast, flew on both of my flights. He got $10 tickets each way. "I love to fly," he explained.

Do Tickets Really Cost $10?

Skybus said that every flight has at least 10 seats for the $10 fare. Other airlines have offered super low fares, but only temporarily. Skybus, however, said the $10 fare is here to stay. "On every flight, there will be at least 10 seats for $10, said Skybus CEO Bill Diffenderffer. "That fare won't go away."

Diffenderffer said that with tickets at that low price, Skybus hopes to create a new market for flying by drawing in "people who previously weren't flying, or would only take one trip a year."

But that still leaves about 140 seats on each plane that the airline sells for more.

Some seats might be $50. Others could be $80. The top last-minute walk-up fare is $330.

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