Skybus opens doors for WMass economy

July 26, 2007

Student applicants from Western Massachusetts may be adding Ohio State to their college lists now that Skybus Airlines is flying non-stop daily flights from Chicopee to Columbus. For the same reason, Ohio students may want to take a look at the University of Massachusetts or Smith or Mount Holyoke Colleges.

With the arrival of discount carrier Skybus Airlines at Westover Metropolitan Airport, the possibilities for business and pleasure travelers are as big as the sky.

Skybus will offer 10, $10 seats on each daily flight to Columbus from Westover. Other ticket prices range from $30 to $150 and are cheaper when reserved at least a month ahead of time.

Monday's inaugural flight from Ohio to Westover represented the first regular passenger service at Westover since the late 1980s. And, as such, the event was greeted with great fanfare. When passengers on the orange A319 disembarked at Westover, they were greeted by a rainbow created by a water cannon, airport officials and representatives of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"This airport has worked very, very hard for many, many years to be ready for this day," said Allan W. Blair, the chief executive officer of Westover Development Corp., which owns the airport.

Greater Springfield business leaders view the new daily flight plan as an opportunity to push economic ties between Southern New England and the heartland.

On a visit to Westover last month, Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray said smaller airports will increasingly see a demand from airlines because larger airports like Bradley International Airport, which began daily non-stop flights to Amsterdam this month, will be at their capacity in the coming years.

From its Columbus hub, Skybus will offer connecting flights to other destinations including California and Florida.

And those places are connections also worth exploring.