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Airport officials at Gary/Chicago International are hosting a press conference this morning at 10 am for "a significant news event." State Representative Charlie Brown (real name!) told The Times of Northwest Indiana that the airport will be announcing a deal with Skybus to start flights between GYY and Greensboro, North Carolina.
If the announcement comes through, this will be quite a move for Skybus. Gary airport is only a 27-mile drive from the very heart of Chicago, much closer to the city than say Stewart International is to New York. This will also be yet another route out of Skybus' new hub in North Carolina, probably to be operated with a newly delivered aircraft.
Skybus is certainly staying true to its new strategy of shorter flights, which don't burn tons of pricey fuel. But as a point-to-point airline still in the start-up stage, the 'bus is still hindered by limited destinations. To wit: For now, low fare fans in Chicagoland won't be flying direct to sunny Florida.
UPDATE: Skybus has officially announced Gary-Greensboro service. The airline has also confirmed what we expected: flights to Niagara Falls, New York and Wilmington, Delaware.
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We talk a lot about Skybus around here, and we've even gone so far to name the low cost carrier Best Travel Newcomer of 2007. All of which prompted Skybus CEO Bill Diffenderffer (at right in the photo) to write in to say hello. We've been hard on the airline in the past, but we've got nothing but respect for a guy who will reach out to tell his side of the story:
I was flattered and surprised that you selected Skybus as Best Travel Newcomer--whatever that means! I was surprised because most bloggers still don't understand our model. They want us to have help desks and generally behave in a manner similar to what they are used to (even though that model doesn't work very well). It is not possible to do that at the fares that we charge.
What Diffenderffer didn't mention were rumors that Skybus could soon announce service to "Philadelphia" (actually Wilmington, Delaware), "Chicago" (Gary, Indiana) and "Toronto" (Niagara Falls, New York, 80 miles away and in a different country). The carrier's been scouting Niagara Falls for months, so something's definitely shaking on that front.
Officials at the airports are staying mum, as is the airline's spokesman. But all three destinations would fit well into Skybus' model of smaller airports in outlying areas serving passengers who wouldn't normally have access to commercial flights. Here's hoping Diffenderffer emails us as soon as he's ready to confirm all three of the new cities.
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At FTG; Skybus actually flies newer planes than this...
Could Skybus be making a play for Colorado? And even if not, might other airlines jump ship from Denver International? The board of Front Range Airport, just five miles away, recently voted to pursue passenger airlines, though the airfield currently doesn't have any commercial flights.
After Skybus inquired about service last year, officials at Front Range started considering the possibilities of bringing at least one low cost carrier to the airport. They'd need to beef up both existing runways and create a security checkpoint so that TSA workers would be able to screen potentially dangerous pies.
While that would be fairly spendy, it wouldn't be the first airport to lure Skybus with cash. Piedmont Triad International will start dolling out incentives January 1.
The trouble with declaring Skybus' future in Colorado--besides the fact that the airline is probably constantly considering different airports for service--is that Front Range is so close to DEN. (Both are about 30 miles from downtown.) Oh, and we should also mention that Southwest started serving Denver International in 2006. Which would you rather fly to: A big commercial airport or a landing strip with one gate?
[Photo: Bruce Quackenbush]
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Starting January 6, you'll be able to fly Skybus from Columbus to New York on the ultra-low cost carrier. Two flights a day will also serve Skybus' focus city of Greensboro beginning February 25.
Of course, the airline won't be flying to New York City. We're talking New York Stewart International, 79 miles north of the Gran Manzana. (For some reason, Skybus says SWF is only 55 miles north of Manhattan.) If Google Maps is to be trusted, the drive could take you more than two hours in traffic.
Skybus' service from Columbus is starting--probably not coincidentally--the same day that JetBlue wraps operations at the airport. But JetBlue flew from CMH to JFK, which despite being in NYC was a long way from Manhattan. Will flyers be willing to drive two-and-a-half hours just to save some scratch on plane tickets? We'll see.