Skybus Completes Inaugural Flight

The "Spirit of Columbus" lifts off from Port Columbus on its inaugural flight to Calif.
The "Spirit of Columbus" lifts off from Port Columbus on its inaugural flight to Calif.

The inaugural flight for Columbus’ start-up airline, Skybus, left for Burbank Tuesday morning and landed in California later in the afternoon.

Before departing, officals conducted a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and the plane received a water cannon salute.

Only hours before departure, ticket agents were still trying to get the hang of checking in passengers at the new Skybus counter on the main level at Port Columbus. But the short delays didn’t dampen the enthusiasm most of the passengers seemed to have.

A customer said he didn’t mind paying $5 extra to check a piece of luggage.

“And you have one bag, Mr. Barry?”

“Put it on my Visa.”

The new Skybus departure area is an old 1950s basement underneath Concourse B. In five months it’s undergone an $11.5 million renovation, most of which was paid by the airport authority.

Gordon Stevenson, a Smith Barney vice president who was standing in line, says he promised a friend he’d be on the airline’s first flight.

“I actually flew up here from Dallas, Texas last night so I could say I was on the first flight out of Columbus, Ohio on Skybus, Stevenson says. “So I’m just here to have my $10 flight.”

The rest of the trip cost him $600 Stevenson says. Jim King who lives near Plain City says he booked his flight to Burbank four days before departure and still saved $800.

“My fare wasn’t quite the introductory pricing but being as it was on Friday it beat the competitors significantly,” King says.

In a brief ceremony Columbus City Council president Mike Mentel lavished praise on the new airline and on the passengers who were waiting to board.

“For all of you over here that are giving us the success, we wish you a great maiden voyage,” Mentel said. “Have a great time in Burbank on the Number One Flight of the Number One Airline coming out of the Number One city in the country, Columbus.”

That left Skybus CEO Bill Diffenderffer one last duty to perform.

“I think now there’s a ribbon somewhere that needs cutting,” Diffenderffer said. “And, boy, do we have scissors. And don’t ask us how we got them through security.”

The passengers drew applause from Skybus employees as they walked out of the building, down a red carpet and out onto the tarmac. They climbed two sets of portable stairs that had been pushed up to the side of the plane. And after a water cannon salute, the plane dubbed the Spirit of Columbus was on its way.

The Airbus 319 arrived on schedule in Burbank around 2 p.m. eastern. Gordon Stevenson described the trip as “phenomenal.” He paid $10 for the seat, $10 for priority boarding, $11 in fees and $8 for breakfast for a total of $39.

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