It’s not going to be a solution to Penticton’s goal of getting regular direct flights, but an innovative startup says they want to fly tourists directly to the South Okanagan from Calgary.
Roger Jewett, CEO at Jump On Flyaways, said the lack of regular flights to Penticton Airport was one of the factors that attracted his team’s attention.
“We thought we could offer a unique opportunity to access Penticton and the South Okanagan and differentiate ourselves by flying into a new destination out of Calgary,” he said. “There is a real interest in the Okanagan in Calgary. The weather is amazing out there and with the wineries, and that type of thing. So it is a real popular destination for Calgarians.”
“Access from Calgary into Penticton has always been a challenge and finding a way to begin with select weekend direct flight packages is the beginning of the breaking down of that barrier and hopefully seeing bottom line impact for our tourism businesses as well,” said Jessie Campbell, CEO of Tourism Penticton.
Jump On works by making use of charter planes, used to ferry between the oil sands and Calgary Monday to Thursday, that sit idle on the tarmac over the weekend.
“We have negotiated low rates with those airlines to use their planes for weekend getaways,” Jewett said.
“We schedule our flights on Friday evening departures and they come back on the Sunday evenings, so it is kind of a perfect short jump weekend getaway.”
“We are expecting the first flight on May 2,” said Mayor Garry Litke.
“In this case it will be for the wine festival in May, they’ll spend their money here in Penticton for the weekend and Sunday night they will fly them back.”
There is a catch. Jump On’s flights only go if they manage to sell most of the seats on the plane.
“The flights only go if we hit the what we call the jumping point, which is about 80 per cent load factor,” said Jewett.
That way we can guarantee low fares, however there is a risk the flight might not go if we don’t hit the jumping point.
“But we have had six successful flights so far and we expect to do many more this year.”
Litke said he is trying to negotiate with Jump On for a return weekend flight as well.
“Now the plane is sitting in Penticton from Friday until Sunday, how about you load it up with Pentictonites that want to fly to Calgary?” Litke asked.
“It’s a temporary measure for our air travel problem, but it is something.”
Jewett said they call that a double-jump, and it is in their plans, but they have yet to plan one successfully, since they can’t sell the second round trip until the first is confirmed to be sold.
While Jump On is packaging wine tours into their initial charter efforts, that is only the start, according to Campbell.
If the concept takes off, other activities like outdoor adventures could be packaged into the flights.