Skybus founder wants to start low-cost airline


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The founder of Skybus Airlines at Ohio’s Port Columbus International Airport is planning a similar project for Yeager Airport.

Charleston-area officials have come up with $3 million in seed money needed to start the low-cost airline. The money has been promised by the Charleston and Central West Virginia convention and visitors bureaus, the state Jobs Investment Trust, the Charleston Area Alliance and private investors.

Skybus founder John Weikle, a South Charleston native, is still seeking $40 million from investment banks.

If the capital is raised by summer’s end, Weikle said operations could begin by December. The proposed airline hasn’t been named but the concept is called Project New Horizons.

Weikle says his plan is different from the model used by Independence Air, which stopped offering flights out of Charleston in January 2006 after filing for bankruptcy. The Dulles, Va., air carrier used a hub-and-spoke system and competed with major carriers on most routes, he said. His vision includes point-to-point service with no connecting routes on routes not served by major carriers.

Tentative plans for the startup airline include heavy reliance on Internet ticket sales and a no-frills concept that would charge extra for services such as meals and beverages. Up to 15 destination cities are being considered.