Barber poles, razors ease Columbus layover
That's what some flyers may think when booking the low fares on Skybus Airlines Inc., which launched service in May and offers 10 seats on every flight for $10 each. Overall, the 144 or 156 seats per plane are offered, on average, for 50 percent less than on competing airlines, the Columbus, Ohio-based carrier said.
But to reach the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles region, or New Orleans vicinity from Boston's nearest Skybus airport, passengers leave from Portsmouth, N.H., and have to connect in Columbus or Greensboro, N.C. Those layovers can last from four hours to 11 hours, oftentimes overnight.
Skybus says it's trying to reduce the dead time when it expands its fleet later this year. "We think that's going to get a lot better and actually fairly quickly," said chief financial officer Michael Hodge.
Travelers who are intent on taking the money-saving, slower itineraries need not worry about finding something to do in Columbus. They can drive 15 miles to Canal Winchester - a village with a population of 5,500 or so - which for two months was hailed as "the premier tourist destination of southeastern Central Ohio" by Skybus flight attendants at the end of each Columbus-bound flight.
Canal Winchester's economic development department, Chamber of Commerce, and Convention & Visitors Bureau paid the airline $2,500 to "sponsor" the landing announcement from Nov. 27 to Jan. 22. That explains why Hodge chuckled when he learned someone actually heeded the advice to visit the village.
Skybus initially thought Canal Winchester's script for its announcement was a joke. "They can say what they want," Hodge said. "It's a very subjective claim."
Canal Winchester development director Chris Strayer, who hoped to attract tourists and business investments, said, "There's definitely been some benefit to it, but I can't quantify it" in terms of visitor spending or new deals.
Canal Winchester says it has five "attractions," but its Doll and Toy Museum was closed for the season, and three others - Motts Military Museum, Slate Run Vineyard, and Slate Run Historical Farm - are actually outside the village's boundaries.
The 3,500-square-foot Ed Jeffers Barber Museum - with its collection of about 70 barber poles and more than 600 razors and other cutting tools spanning more than 150 years - easily offered more than an hour of amusement for a $5 adult admission. But it was only open by appointment, which required calling at least three different people to set up.
On average, 20 visitors check it out a month, said Michael Ippoliti, president of the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society. The museum survives on volunteers, who hope to attract 150 monthly visitors to cover the $750 monthly operational costs.
"I'd like to see people in here every day," Ippoliti said, "just to help pay for the rent."
Nicole C. Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.