New ‘group buy’ flight site makes weekend getaways easy, but will travellers get on board?
CALGARY- Fancy a weekend in Vegas, but don’t have vacation time to spare? A new tour company is hedging its bets, hoping those looking for a quick getaway will fill up its charter flights bound for Sin City.
Jump On Flyaways offers direct, weekend flights for a set price. Their first getaway is in April, leaving on a Friday afternoon and returning Sunday night. The grand total? $479 return—a sweet deal when you look at comparable flights to Las Vegas being offered for at least $100 more, with a flight time of up to 11 hours each way.
“Like all Canadians, I was frustrated with high airfares,” explains Jump On Flyaways CEO Roger Jewett, who came up with the concept while working as CFO of Enerjet. The company shuttles workers between Calgary, Edmonton and the oilsands on weekdays, but their 737s sit idle on weekends. Enerjet was looking for a way to better utilize their fleet, and that’s when Jewett realized the planes could be used to fly weekend travellers.
How it works
Would-be jet setters sign up for flights, then once the minimum number of seats are sold, their credit cards are charged and the flight is a ‘go’. There is one condition, however. If enough seats aren’t filled one week before the flight, no one leaves the tarmac.
“There are pros and cons to everything. Our price is a heck of a deal,” Jewett maintains. “There is no real financial risk, just more of an emotional risk.”
So far, nearly 50 seats have been booked for the Vegas flight, and 73 more need to be sold by April 12 for the flight to go ahead. Jewett says that so far he has been getting great feedback.
“It’s been awesome. Some people just heard about it through social media or interviews and said, ‘wow, this is a great idea’ and want to support it.”
Airline analysts agree the idea could really take off.
“I think it’s a novel, creative, innovative way of selling airline tickets,” says Rick Erickson, managing director of RP Erickson and Associates. “Given the state of economy in Alberta and the amount of people with disposable income…this will be interesting to watch.“
“I would surmise there is enough demand there that this could become a regular staple in Calgary travel offerings.”
However, he doesn’t see the ‘group buy’ idea working in other areas of the country where there aren’t operations like the oilsands, which require companies to constantly shuttle employees.
“The only way it works is when you have an operator who’s very much involved in work force transportation,” Erickson explains. “[Enerjet] can do so more cheaply because the largest part of their costs are covered by oil companies.”
For now, Jewett is in talks with other charter airlines who’ve expressed interest in the idea, and is already looking at expanding to cities including Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Hamilton. He is also gauging interest in what other cities people would like to fly to, with Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco making the short list.
“This is like a private airplane where we can ask our fans, ‘where do you want to go?’” Jewett explains. “The other thing we have encountered is a number of groups of people like bachelorette parties, wanting to go on a different weekend.”
He adds he’s looking forward to what the future holds for his start-up company.
“As soon as we fill one [flight] up, confidence will really jump from the consumers.”