For Skybus, High Load Factor Doesn't Mean Success

Last Updated Mar 18, 2008 6:05 PM EDT

Skybus route mapThe December DOT data is now in, and though I haven't had a lot of time to poke through the data yet, I have found a couple interesting things.

For today, let's focus on Columbus-based Skybus. Even though the airline is based in Columbus, it's apparently finding that tapping into that Northeast US to Florida pipeline is giving them plenty of passengers. The top two markets in terms of butts in seats were both from Pease Int'l, about 60 miles north of Boston. And yes, they both end in Florida.

But what do you find when you get beyond that? Well, in third place we have Columbus to Greensboro, and then in fourth place we find Columbus to Oakland with 77 percent of seats filled during the month.

Wait, Oakland? Yep, the very same Oakland that Skybus announced was disappearing from the airline's route map at the end of May. So many people think that full airplanes mean big profits, but that couldn't be the case here. What's going on?

Well, while full airplanes generally are helpful in producing profits, that doesn't mean that everyone onboard is paying enough to cover costs. And those long haul flights need a lot of fuel to make it over to California. They also take a lot of aircraft time, so Skybus can have fewer flights per day than if they ran a bunch of short hauls.

Full planes do not always equal success.