Skybus Airlines is adding some service today and taking some away.
As it puts a new batch of tickets up for sale at 6 a.m. for March-through-May travel, it is cutting three of its five West Coast routes for financial reasons, the airline confirmed.
On the plus side, Skybus is adding a second daily flight to Greensboro, N.C., and a third daily flight to Punta Gorda near Fort Myers, Fla. The latter is a seasonal addition and will last only through March 31.
The announcement comes as oil prices have hit record highs, leading some airlines to raise ticket prices and shed fuel-guzzling long-haul flights in favor of shorter, more-profitable ones.
Skybus CEO Bill Diffenderffer said cutting Skybus' service to San Diego and Bellingham, Wash., which serves Seattle, along with one of its two daily flights to Burbank, Calif., is "based primarily on the sharp increase in the cost of jet fuel." He said Skybus "needed to take a look at our scheduling strategy and find ways to use our fleet more effectively to serve more passengers in more cities."
The move leaves Port Columbus again with no direct service to San Diego or the Seattle area, the airport's top two "target markets" lacking nonstop service from Columbus. As such, those routes -- each with well more than 100 passengers per day in each direction on all airlines, according to airport figures -- are eligible for financial incentives from the airport.
San Diego flights will continue to operate through March 6.
The Bellingham and second Burbank flights will end Jan. 6. Those who had purchased tickets to Bellingham for travel after that date will receive refunds. Ticketholders for the canceled Burbank flight will automatically be rebooked on the remaining daily flight. They also will be given the option to change their reservation without charge or request a refund.
No new routes are being added at this time, although Diffenderffer promised "significant announcements ... in the next few weeks."
This summer, Skybus filed with the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to fly to Cancun, Mexico, and two Bahamas destinations, Nassau and Freeport. Airline spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said he did not expect the routes to be among the next round of announcements, but he didn't rule it out.
Separately, the board of the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C., called a special meeting for Wednesday to discuss "passenger-development incentives for nonstop service" to new airports by an unnamed airline. Tenenbaum and Piedmont Triad spokeswoman Stephanie Freeman declined to comment, but Greensboro has been considered a leading candidate to become the next "focus city" for Skybus, meaning it would get direct service to a number of destinations.
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