At midnight on Thursday, March 10, Jetsgo Corporation quietly pulled the plug on its operations, stranding more than 17,000 passengers without warning. The news broke on Friday morning as the company quietly relocated its entire fleet to Quebec, where laws will protect the 29 planes from creditors as the company filed for bankruptcy protection. The entire staff of 1,350 employees has been laid off.
For Whistler, the impact so far has been minimal. According to Jenny Revesz of Personal Travel Management, only five local customers were affected by the collapse of Jetsgo, and none of them were stranded on a round trip.
"When the sales were on with Jetsgo, Westjet was matching the sale so I could put customers on Westjet most of the time," she said. "We always try to find the lowest rate, but if the times and the prices are the same we would go with Westjet or Air Canada, which have been around for a long time."
Similarly, some hotels report little to no impact in room cancellations in the fallout.
"We may have had one cancellation," said Anita McGee, general manager of the Holiday Inn.
The Coast Whistler Hotel had no cancellations.
The biggest impact for Whistler residents and visitors is expected to be rising airline prices. Up until March 11 a round-trip ticket from Vancouver to Toronto was $470 on Westjet and Jetsgo. The same ticket now retails for $604.
The airline industry, which is down to three carriers in Canada, acknowledged the rise in prices but said they were likely temporary. Prices are generally higher during the spring break period when there is a greater demand for seats, and the demise of Jetsgo has further increased that demand.
An investigation by The Globe and Mail discovered that ticket prices have increased by 16 per cent to 50 per cent, depending how far out you book.
"The increase is supposed to be temporary, but I dont think well see the same kinds of deals weve seen in the past," said Revesz.
The local Thomas Cooke Travel agency had just three people booked with Jetsgo and none of them were stranded.
"What happened with us is that their (Jetsgos) website had a bit of a virus for us in the office recently so we couldnt physically pull up their site and book with them, so were pretty much in the clear," said manager Tahnee Harrop.
The agency also hasnt seen an influx of customers that might have been stranded in Whistler by the bankruptcy. "We expected some people to come through the door trying to get home, but we havent had anybody," she said.