Posted by: Jamie Stamm | March 20, 2008

The Skybus experience

This is a blog I wasn’t planning to write until May, detailing our experience with the budget airline Skybus after we had returned from our vacation.

The fact that I’m writing it now should let you know right away that something went wrong.

We had been planning a trip to Moblie, Ala., and New Orleans, La., earlier this year and then had to abandon our plans after our heat pump blew and drained our savings. But earlier this month, we came into a bit of money unexpectedly and decided we could make the trip (which is to gather with family in celebration of Jerry’s Papa’s 90th birthday), as long as we did it on a fairly tight budget.

With that in mind, we opted to look into Skybus, which we learned about through a late-night commercial. Here’s how it works: Skybus keeps prices low by selling its tickets cheap and then charging for “a la carte” services. So while your ticket may only cost $80 round-trip, that doesn’t include a reserved seat (it’s first come, first serve, although you can get a reserved seat for an additional $12.50 each way, or $25 extra on a round-trip ticket) or checked baggage (which costs $10 per bag for a suitcase up to 50 pounds, although carry-ons are free) , or any in-flight amenities such as pillows or blankets (you can buy them to keep), food or drink, although they are available for purchase. You also book your flight online and check yourself in at a Skybus kiosk, and there is no telephone-based customer service, although you can get help through the Web site (more on that later).

We read up on Skybox before making our final decision to go with the carrier, and most of the complaints we read were about the lack of customer service. So we went ahead and booked a round-trip flight from Greensboro to Gulfport, Miss., including reserved tickets (we felt we needed to reserve tickets because we have two young children, although my brother thought we’d enjoy the flight much more if we ended up scattered throughout the airplane and someone else had to sit beside our kids – I entertained the idea only briefly) and two checked bags for a total of $526. (A quick note: We tried unsuccessfully to book our flight using our Visa check card, which we had never had trouble using before to make purchases online – until we tried to book new tickets tonight using a different airline and encountered the same problem. Anyway, I e-mailed Skybus’ customer service about this problem and never heard back from them, so we eventually booked the flight using our Chase credit card, which worked just fine.)

We received our confirmation from Skybus immediately, so I set about making other reservations, including hotels in Mobile and New Orleans and a rental car. In fact, I’ve spent the past several nights working out day-by-day itineraries, printing out coupons and getting more and more excited about A REAL VACATION.

Then, while I was at work this morning, my mom called from Winston-Salem.

“When is your flight?” she asked.

“April 26th,” I said.

Her reply? “That’s what I was afraid of.”

You see, in this morning’s edition of the Winston-Salem Journal, there was an article about how Skybus has decided to cancel its Greensboro to Gulfport route effective April 15th. It said customers would be notified by e-mail and issued a refund.

I checked my Yahoo account. No e-mail from Skybus.

I understand that airlines sometimes cancel routes to save money, and in today’s economy, it’s not all that surprising that this happened. But there are two things that really bother me.

1. I had to find out via a phone call from my mother that our flight had been canceled. In fact, I didn’t get an e-mail from Skybus until 7:30 p.m.

2. Skybus charged the $526 to our credit card on March 17th. For the press release to appear in today’s paper, it would have had to be issued on March 18th. You can’t tell me they didn’t know on Monday that they were ending that route. And the e-mail that we received tonight said our credit card would be refunded within 30 to 60 days. So here we are trying to book a new flight on a different airline, and we’re out $526 for the next one to two months. Thanks, Skybus.

Right now, our vacation plans are up in the air as we are temporarily grounded.

Will we attempt to use Skybus again? Probably not.

But I have to say that, as I scramble to find an affordable flight for four, I do appreciate that there’s a carrier out there that is trying to keep prices low. I just hope they get a bit better at it.

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Responses

  1. Try Allegiance. I’m not sure where they fly, but my dad booked a flight to Daytona a week before his trip last month for just $39. They fly out of Greensboro, I think.

  2. Sorry, Allegiant


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