Jump On a quick weekend vacation

ridiculously low air fares, direct flights, convenient departure times

Published Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jump On a quick vacation

Group-buying power makes for cheap flights

By Debra M. Smith, For the Calgary Herald clientuploads/13 Jump On Roger Jewett Cropped.jpg

A new Calgary-based charter airline company is hoping to use the same kind of group-buying power behind such websites as Groupon to offer cheap flights for vacationers.

The company, Jump On, offers people chance to tentatively book flights up at discounted rates, with a caveat — the flight won’t leave unless 80 per cent of the plane’s seats are sold.

Jump On is the brainchild of Calgarian Roger Jewett, a consultant with a background in marketing. Jewett says he knew Canadians were tired of paying high prices for airline tickets and enduring long layovers to get a lower fare. While consulting for Enerjet, he found out that three of the charter flight company’s 737s were sitting idle on the runway on weekends after flying workers from Calgary to Fort McMurray during the week. He saw a chance to make use of that downtime by appealing to adventurous travellers.

“Our planes can fly direct to anywhere in North America — San Diego, Phoenix, New York even New Orleans,” says Jewett. “We’re hoping to attract people who are spontaneous and flexible and who won’t be too invested in the destination if we don’t fill up. But we anticipate that we will be full, especially once people start spreading the word through Facebook and Twitter.”

Jewett hopes to build a community of like-minded travellers who are willing to take a chance that at least 120 of the plane’s 149 seats will fill up. Once the minimum “Jumping Point” is reached, travelers’ credit cards are charged and it’s almost time to head to the airport. “By using the power of group purchasing it’s a win-win for everyone,” Jewett said.

Enerjet supplies the crew and maintains the planes and passengers get a direct flight at a discount price. Flights start booking about 45 days in advance and decision day is a week before the flight. That’s enough time for people to book a hotel or use online discounters like hotwire.com or hotels.com, Jewett said.

Jocelyn Tochor, a corporate manager in her 30s, is sold on Jump On’s concept of direct flights, peak times and one low price.

“I’m a big traveller and when I lived in London, hopping on a low cost carrier for a weekend was one of my favourite things to do,” Tochor said. “Here in Canada, the closer you get to a departure date, the more expensive the tickets get. I’m not a planner and I like landing somewhere I’ve never been before and exploring the possibilities. I also like the fact that I won’t have to take time off work because all the Jump On flights leave and return over a weekend.”

The company’s first planned flight, on the weekend of April 19, will make the two-hour and 45-minute flight to Las Vegas on Friday at 4 p.m., returning Sunday at 5 p.m.

Destinations are chosen by popular vote on the Jump On website at gojumpon.com. San Francisco is currently in the lead.

At prices that are almost half the going rates, Jump On might start taking off in a big way. The downside, however, is that the plane won’t take off if ticket sales are too low.

“It will be exciting if it happens, and I won’t be disappointed if a flight gets cancelled,” Tochor said. “I love winging it!”

Debra M. Smith is a Calgary based travel writer. Reach her at debrasmith.ink@gmail.com @poindextress