Lull in Alberta oil patch frees up charter jets for discounted flights
VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
There A slowdown in demand for charter flights in Alberta’s oil patch has freed up planes for a marketing company to resume Calgary-Vancouver trips and introduce discount rides on the Calgary-Toronto route.
Roger Jewett, the chief executive officer and founder of Jump On Flyaways, said the firm is able to offer large savings on airfares to consumers because it hires idle charter aircraft at low rates.
is a catch to the offerings, however, and it is a big one – unless Jump On fills roughly three-quarters of the available seats on a route, the proposed flights featuring deeply discounted fares will be cancelled.
“Our flights go if we sell enough seats. We only go if we hit the jumping point, which is basically break even or better,” Mr. Jewett said in an interview Monday.
Jump On has flown the Calgary-Vancouver route in the past, notably during Grey Cup weekend last fall in Vancouver.
The next quest is to fill as many seats as possible for flights between Calgary and Vancouver over the Easter long weekend in early April. Jump On’s round-trip flight on the Calgary-Vancouver route has been priced at $248. The airfares are roughly 50 per cent lower than the rivals’ typical weekend ticket prices for a trip originating in Calgary, Mr. Jewett said.
Passengers have the option to make charter bookings for $124 one-way through Jump On, and pay WestJet or Air Canada for the other flight segment on scheduled service.
So far, tickets are selling briskly for the 148-seat flight originating in Calgary on April 2, but sales are slow for the trip starting in Vancouver that same day. The return flights on are April 6. Jump On has a limited number of seats on sale for $99 one-way from Vancouver to Calgary on April 2, and from Calgary to Vancouver on April 6.
Persuading Calgarians to book to Vancouver has gone smoothly so far for Jump On, and the challenge will be filling seats with Vancouver residents in early spring. WestJet and Air Canada are offering deals as low as $169 one way in early April to stimulate demand for Vancouverites to visit Calgary, but Mr. Jewett said his firm provides cheaper seats for all passengers.
Since April, 2013, Calgary-based Jump On has managed to forge ahead with 10 round trips on various routes, or a 50-per-cent success rate for attracting enough passengers. Mr. Jewett wants to ramp up the number of trips and destinations offered in 2015, and expects that the success rate will increase over time as more consumers get used to booking on Jump On’s website.
On the Calgary-Toronto route, the proposed launch dates will be around the May long weekend, but possibly earlier.
The Calgary-Toronto pairing emerged after Jump On teamed up to sign a new deal with Enerjet, a charter carrier that specializes in flying workers to and from northern Alberta’s oil sands. WestJet co-founder Tim Morgan is the CEO of Calgary-based Enerjet, which has found itself with more vacant time slots to deploy its three Boeing 737-700 jets after low oil prices reduced charter bookings in and out of the oil sands.
Enerjet and other companies such as Canadian North are starting to feel the impact of decreased charter demand for flying oil and gas workers as energy producers scale back operations and chop the number of staff and contractors required. In Enerjet’s case, the impact will start kicking in during the months ahead.
“We have some spare time because of the slowdown in the oil patch,” Mr. Morgan said. “We’re bracing ourselves for the future. We can see that some of our revenue is going away at some point, and we better have other revenue to replace it, and we do.”
Jump On will rely primarily on Enerjet in the months ahead, but will be on the lookout to charter planes from other firms, too. Potential new routes being examined by Jump On include Edmonton-Vancouver and Edmonton-Kelowna. Another possibility is Edmonton-Fort McMurray because scheduled airfares between those two Alberta cities are expensive, said Mr. Jewett, who is the controlling shareholder of privately owned Jump On.
He added that U.S. destinations being considered this year include Palm Springs, Calif., San Francisco, Las Vegas and Phoenix.