Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Where To Next?

Having collected my thoughts on the Jaunt experience, I have to say that I was pretty happy with all aspects of the inaugural run even with a few hiccups mixed in. What Jaunt does is something I've never had a chance to do in my life to date. One day, I may do it again, though, and repeat business is the sign of a good customer experience. From what I observed and heard, six people and one videographer appeared to have had an outstanding time, and I assume this will be recommended by all.

While not everything went as smoothly as Marketing and Business Manager Dan Rutherford had hoped, the fact that he was able to come through with some alternate activities and ideas when plans changed on him shows that not only is the service adaptable and willing to work with locations and events, but it also shows the resources that Dan has available to be able to make those changes and still provide an outstanding experience. More on this below as I sum up the whirlwind adventure on Jaunt!

First Impressions

The reception for the group at the Fast Air terminal in Winnipeg was top-notch. Coffee, cookies, a fully-catered lunch, and some very personable staff made the arrival at the terminal enjoyable and pleasant. It was cozy and comfortable, and the atmosphere inside the building felt very relaxed and professional. Jon and Scott, our two pilots, were outstanding in communicating the on-going preparations being made and were very knowledgeable about everything happening on the tarmac in front of us. If one was looking for the comforts of home while waiting for a flight, the staff at Fast Air/Jaunt provided that in spades!

RATING: 5/5

Flight

It's an airplane, so I don't expect it to be a luxury SUV. That being said, the King Air 200 Executive airplane was a nice fit for eight people. The seats had enough leg room to remain comfortable all flight, there was adequate room between passengers, and the flight was quick at an 1.5 hours down and back on average. Jon and Scott were beyond professional when navigating the skies and certainly got us there and back without any issues. Their knowledge got us through US Customs in ten minutes, and we were on our way. Private planes are an incredible luxury, and I think the entire group can agree that the flights were excellent.

RATING: 5/5

Events & Attractions

Let's be honest: seeing live hockey games is never a bad idea. Xcel Energy Center, as a venue, is amazing, and we had so much fun in our incredible seats. The fans from Minnesota that sat around us made it feel more like a home game as we bantered back and forth, and Brian, the usher, was an absolute delight to have in our section. He was energetic, he loves hockey, and he delivered us stats pages after every period. The man is a true professional. If there's a recommendation to be made, it's that Jaunt needs to get the same tickets each and every time they go down to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The one thing that was canceled was the arena tour prior to the game, but this is excusable in that the Wild were playing their home opener. The arena staff were making last-minute preparations as we entered the arena at 5pm-ish, so I can only imagine the activity happening down in the corridors of Xcel Energy Center with players, staff, and the ice crew all making sure things were perfect. This is not to say that I was disappointed, but this is something that Jaunt should pursue for future events because, having done it once in the past, it's an amazing experience. To be honest, though, missing out on this didn't detract from the group's excitement for the game!

Again, because the tour of the arena was canceled, we were forced to find something to occupy a little time prior to arriving at the arena. Had this not happened, I wouldn't have been stared down with a death-stare from a young lady at a wedding who seemed to want a burn a hole through me with her eyes. We also wouldn't have experienced some Minnesota tailgating nor would we have Rice Park and the statues of Charles Schulz's Peanuts characters. I'd say that's a fair trade for allowing the Wild a little more prep time, and kudos to Dan who made these changes at the last minute while working to keep us entertained!

Now if only he could have found a way to have the Jets win, I'd say this would have been a very excellent way to spend a day!

RATING: 4.5/5. It wasn't Dan's nor Jaunt's fault that the Xcel Energy Center tour was canceled, but the Wild need to stick to their plans after making them. I know a few people in the group expressed regret in not getting the tour. Jaunt shouldn't be penalized, but the itinerary is something they need to ensure remains in place to deliver the best experiences on their excursions.

Meals & Snacks

The catered lunch by Stella's was incredible, and this would have pushed the score for the experience high as it was. Instead, there were snacks and beverages served on the plane on both flights, and Jaunt covered the cost of the meal at the Xcel Energy Center which none of us expected. We were all able to get a meal we wanted, and everyone sat in their seats with a full tummy and a big smile.

Dan had attempted to gain access to the Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Club Buffet for the group which would have been amazing, but unbeknownst to all of us was the fact that you had to book tickets to the restaurant via Ticketmaster prior to the event. I'll give Dan credit in that had he been able to get us in the Jack Daniels restaurant, I might have pushed this rating to a six or higher. I highly recommend that if Jaunt is going to continue to do business with the Wild in bringing people down to their games, they arrange dinner at the Jack Daniels restaurant for future trips. Jaunt passengers will not be disappointed!

In any case, the food and snacks provided to us at no additional cost were excellent, and there wasn't a disappointed guest in the group!

RATING: 5/5

Pricing

This is always going to be the sticking point in any decision being made when it comes to using the Jaunt service. If you had read my initial article on Friday about the service, Jaunt's cost of $1600 CDN came in approximately $180 higher than booking out each piece individually through your own means. What I didn't expect were the in-flight snacks, the lunch, and the dinner which probably added somewhere in the range of an additional $40-50 to the total if you factor in the USD exchange on the food costs at Xcel Energy Center. With that knowledge, that drops the difference to about $130.

What would you be willing to pay to bypass security lines, check-in lines, a two-hour international flight preboarding requirement, and all of the other cumbersome commercial airline rules? Is $130 enough of a gap for people to say, "That's not worth it"? I think your time is probably more important to you than to, say, Delta Airlines, so would you be willing to pay $130 more to fly down to St. Paul, take in a Wild game with dinner, fly back, and be in your own bed before midnight on the same day? I'm guessing a lot of people can easily justify the extra few dollars to skip all the hassles and headaches. That's how I feel, and I'm sure you're thinking about that too.

The one thing that Dan did explain to us, however, was that chartered flights come with an added cost based on how far one is flying and for how many days. Because the flight crews work on a set rate for distances and time, the farther one goes, the more expensive the trip's final bill is. This is the reality of chartered flights, and there really isn't anything that Jaunt can do about that. If you're planning on doing an overnight stay or a weekend trip, remember that you're going to pay for the pilots to stay as well.

That fact above aside, I'm willing to pay $130 more to clear all the hassles from my trip, and I'm sure a vast majority of readers are saying the same thing. Yes, $1600 CDN is a lot of money for a ten-hour trip, but I guarantee that it's an experience of a lifetime for you and a pile of friends.

RATING: 4.5/5. Jaunt's fee of nearly $9000 per person for a three-day trip to Augusta for The Masters golf tournament is a little much for the average fan looking to experience a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If they can get the prices to come down for some of the longer excursions, this score will definitely be a five-out-of-five.

Overall Experience

I don't know what to tell you other than the eight of us had an amazing experience on Saturday. There was not one thing that dampened the spirits of the group. While there was some expressed disappointment at not being able to tour through the lower levels of the Xcel Energy Center, the experiences at the St. Paul Hotel and at the tailgating party made up for the missed tour.

Again, while we were guests of Jaunt and experienced this trip for free, I will gladly be looking at doing another one of these trips in the future. I can't necessarily say when it will be, but as I stated above I am willing to pay the little bit extra in order to have a hassle-free experience. That alone makes this an attractive idea, and I never not enjoy watching games at the Xcel Energy Center. If Jaunt can come through with the same tickets and dinner at the Jack Daniels restaurant, I'll be booking sooner than later, I assure you.

OVERALL RATING: 24/25

What's the mark of a great business? Loyal, repeat customers. Jaunt has found one in me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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