Original images of a livery design described by some as “psychedelic” emerged on the internet, but since then the all orange design displaying the butterfly logo on the tail made its appearance on the Columbus tarmac. This design was not the standard livery for all Skybus aircraft, however, as its airplanes were available as “branded airplanes” to any company that paid $500,000 per year for this.
A branded airplane featured a full-body advertisement along the fuselage, with the tail and engines of the plane remaining in the Skybus paint scheme. The first sponsored aircraft, aircraft N522VA leased from Virgin America, promoted the theme “Nationwide is on Your Side” Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. It was created by an airplane media company, SkyBrand, based in Seattle. Skybus had also had some self-advertising on the orange tails of its white planes that read, “Skybus $10 Fares … Only Birds Fly Cheaper.”
The first leased aircraft for Skybus that came from Virgin America, had 144 seats on board, and flew with three flight attendants.
Skybus reported a loss of $16 million during its first three months of operation. A Skybus spokesman said that these results were “in line” with expectations for an airline startup. During that period, Skybus planes were 79% full, placing the airline sixteenth highest among 96 reporting airlines. Passenger yield for the quarter was 5.08 cents/mile, compared with Southwest’s 12.50 cents/mile and the 13.00-cent/mile average among major national carriers.
Soon after the departures of several top managers, on April 4, 2008, Skybus announced they were shutting down all flight operations. The airline also said it would seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A statement on its website regarding the shutdown said that “Skybus struggled to overcome the combination of rising jet fuel costs and a slowing economic environment. These two issues proved to be insurmountable for a new carrier.”
Skybus was the fourth United States-based airline to shut down or announce future plans to shut down the week of March 31, 2008, following Aloha Airlines, ATA Airlines and charter airline Champion Air. At the time of the shutdown, Skybus employed about 450 people, mostly in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Almost all were immediately laid off. Passengers were left stranded on round trips.