Business

Airline With $10 Fares Picks Greensboro as Second Hub

Posted October 22, 2007 11:31 a.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2007 4:06 p.m. EDT

— Skybus, a discount airline based in Columbus, Ohio, will locate a new hub operation at Piedmont Triad International airport.

The move will create 375 jobs over the next two years. Most of the jobs will be for pilots and flight attendants. Average wages will be $46,300 per year, according to the governor’s office.

Skybus is known for offering 10 or more seats on flights for $10 each. PTI will become its second “focus city,” with all flights being non-stop from PTI to other cities and back.

Gov. Mike Easley made the formal announcement at PTI on Monday afternoon.

“This innovative airline’s decision to locate in the Piedmont Triad should bring significant economic benefits to the region and the state,” Easley said in a statement. “North Carolina was First in Flight more than a century ago and we continue to lead the nation in pioneering approaches in the aerospace sector.”

The airline will receive up to $3.98 million in state incentives through a job-development program. The state Economic Investment Committee approved Skybus for the job development investment grant Monday morning.

Skybus officials told the North Carolina Department of Commerce that the company would invest $350 million in the expansion. Most of that money is for new aircraft. It currently operates five aircraft.

The airline serves nine cities out of Columbus. It recently cancelled service to two West Coast destinations (San Diego, Seattle area), citing increased fuel costs.

The airline reportedly also considered Richmond, Va., for the base. However, Virginia officials denied they offered Skybus as much as $50 million in incentives for the operation, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Landing Skybus is the third major air industry win for the area in recent years. FedEx is creating a hub at Piedmont Triad International, and HondaJet picked the airport for its new headquarters and manufacturing facility.

Skybus, a low-cost, no-frills airline, offers direct flights from its Columbus hub to 19 other cities. Direct flights are also available from Boston to two cities in Florida.

However, Skybus recently said it would stop flights to the Seattle area and San Diego due to increasing fuel costs. The airline also is cutting back on service to the Los Angeles area.

“We only fly into airports that do not suffer from severe congestion – after all, airplanes only make money when they are flying,” Airbus Chief Executive Officer Bill Diffenderffer says on the airline’s Web site. “We use the Internet for everything from sales to customer support – like Amazon.com. If you want a sandwich and a coke during your flight, you’ll pay for it – just like you do in any other business. But mostly we just keep things simple.”

The airline flies AirBus A319 aircraft. Most models have room for 156 passengers.

Skybus was formed in early 2003, according to the firm’s Web site.

A JDIG grant enables companies to receive grants for 65 percent of the state income taxes paid for newly created jobs.

Skybus also received a variety of additional incentives from local governments and private sector contributors.