Skybus To Be First Airline To Take Ads On Web Site

Columbus, Ohio-based discount air carrier Skybus will be the first airline in the U.S. to take outside advertising on its Web site and has named Travel Ad Network as the exclusive sales rep to do it. The airline seeks to follow on the successful model in Europe of Ryanair.

"Part of our model is to derive ancillary revenue from non-fee sources," said Charles Clifton, vice chairman of Skybus. "Low fares drive high volume. Ryanair is one of the most trafficked sites in Europe. We'd be silly not to extract as much revenue as possible."

Clifton is quite familiar with the tremendous growth trajectory of Ryanair because he joined that airline in 1986 as the fifth employee. Skybus, which is an independent company with $160 million in private investment, hopes to mirror Ryanair's success in the U.S. market.

Skybus launched last week offering round-trip fares as low as $20 between nine U.S. cities. It is serving Columbus, Ohio; Burbank, Ca.; Portsmouth, N.H.; Richmond, Va.; Kansas City, Mo.; Bellingham, Wa.; Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C.; Fort Lauderdale, Fl., and Oakland, Ca. Expansion to other cities is expected. All booking is online through Skybus.com, and more than 90,000 tickets were sold in the first two days after launch.

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The site drew more than 500,000 unique visitors in April, according to comScore, even though the airline didn't begin to operate until May 22.

"For me this is an exciting opportunity because it will be a chance for the advertiser to be associated with the euphoria of booking an online $20 ticket," said Travel Ad Network CEO Cree Lawson. "I think Skybus is going to revolutionize the quick impulse getaway. There's no excuse not to go away when fares are this low."

About 40% of the ads will be non-travel and are expected to launch June 15. Ads will appear on destination pages, post confirmation interstitials, and booking confirmation pages and emails. Built-out destination spotlights with integrated ad opportunities are also in the works.

Other sites in the Travel Ad Network are Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, FareCompare, and more. The vertical reaches 8.5 million unique users across nearly 50 sites, according to the company.

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