Monday, April 7, 2008

The Not-So-Friendly Skies

On Friday I hopped on the Metro North for an hour long ride to Newburgh Airport to take advantage of a dirt cheap flight to Greensboro, NC. My airline was Skybus, a discount carrier that sold seats for as low as $20. For some reason that I never quite understood, they had chosen my hometown as it's headquarters. I must have had the honor of flying one of the last Skybus flights, because that night they declared bankruptcy. All of a sudden I was out a return flight home.

Skybus is only the latest airline to file Chapter 11. Three others went out of business this week as well. Aloha, ATA and Champion Airlines also won't be taking to the skies any longer. It seems that it is hard for discount airlines and small carriers to break even when oil prices have held steady over $100 since February.

Skybus had increased traffic at Greensboro's airport by 30 percent in January and February of 2008 compared to the same time last year. Now the airport is back to being the type of place where the TSA security agents have nothing better to do than measure all your liquids and search every bag you have. It's a shame, they used to be busy enough that every once in a while I could get away with sneaking my water bottle on board.

My beloved town of Greensboro, with a population of 225,000, has been experiencing a boom recently. By "boom" I mean that the city has successfully embarked on a project to remove all trees from the area. Outside of downtown, which has turned into a trendy area after being a ghost town for all of my childhood, the city looks like one big suburb. Greensboro has some of the worst urban sprawl in the country--meaning that developers keep expanding outwards instead of upwards. FedEx is opening a large hub there that has already brought 500 new jobs to the area in construction alone. When it opens they plan on hiring 1,500 employees. FedEx deserves some sort of award in efficiency for leveling 165 acres in what seemed like two or three months.

Who knows, maybe this economic slowdown will mean I'll still be able to find a few places around town where I can let my dog run around without a leash.

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