Thursday, February 07, 2008

Economics of Flying Skybus

I need to take a trip (down the old Mississipp) to The Big Easy, The Crescent City...New Orleans. Well, as any resident of Greensboro will tell you,
you can't there from here (well not easily anyway). The major airlines will take you there for a price as long as you're willing to get up at the crack of dawn. If you don't mind driving to RDU you can get there a little cheaper via Expressjet (no, I'd never heard of them before either) but the same rules apply (and you have to deal with RDU).

So I smack my forehead when I finally remember "Hey, we've got Skybus here in the G and they fly to New Orleans (sort of)." Well, sure enough, you can fly to New Orleans (sort of) and the rate is amazing AND the flights depart at somewhat more civilized hours. BUT, here's where the "sort of" changes the economics. Gulfport/Biloxi airport is where Skybus really flies to -- but hey, it's only 74 miles away from New Orleans, right? Turns out that extra 74 miles makes a big difference. There are a couple of options to get from Gulfport/Biloxi to New Orleans. The most logical one, renting a car, now adds a couple hundred extra dollars for the time I plan on being in New Orleans. So now flying Skybus is MORE expensive than flying one of the major airlines from either GSO or RDU. That's pretty disappointing.

I've checked out flying to New York (i.e. Newburgh) via Skybus and if you don't mind a little inconvenience and some extra time (you have to grab a shuttle to the train station and then take the train to Grand Central station) it is a money saver - especially if you factor in the cost of a cab ride from LGA or JFK. But plentiful public transportation is a different story in the NYC Metro area (it EXISTS) than in Gulfport/Biloxi area.

Of course, Skybus isn't going to restrain trade by telling you the cheapest way to get from one of their remote airports to where you really want to go. No, you have to find that out for yourself. (I suppose that if you actually DO want to go to Biloxi - perhaps to gamble - yeah, Skybus is definitely the way to go.) The true cost of traveling via Skybus to any destination other than where the wheels of their Airbus 319s touch down is probably a losing proposition for most travelers.

Perhaps some enterprising person will, one day, create a web site that tells you, plainly, how to get from Skybus airports to real cities for the lowest cost (hint hint). Perhaps, if Skybus stays in business long enough, they will figure out a way to get us from their airports to where we really want to go for a price that will keep them competitive. That day is not today.

Southwest, usually another good option for flying cheaply (if you don't count the inconvenience of driving to Raleigh and paying RDU parking fees) doesn't fly directly to New Orleans. You have to connect through Orlando or Nashville. Baby, if I can't fly direct, I don't want to go.

I guess we really DO live in the middle of nowhere.


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