Oh boy. This was by no means a cheap effort. During the initial marketing effort, we had several accusations of the organizers profiting off of this effort or even just taking the money and running off. In reality, it’s been the opposite. As you’ll see below, the inaugural FurFlight ran at a loss.

Granted, since it was a prototype on an airline that would cease to exist, it was justified to go as all out as possible to make this first run memorable.

Grand Total Cost: $26,243.35

THE BREAKDOWN

Coach/Group Costs

Original Group of 50:

$11,838.75 ($315.70/head)

Additional 6 Seats:

$2,100.20 ($350.03/head)

Last minute missing passenger:

$664.40

Total:

$14,603.35

This was the most “even” of pricing in that all of the costs was made up in the sales without any loss or surplus. This was the biggest benefit with group sales in that nearly Everyone had the same, guaranteed price.

The premium seating, however, was a perfect example for why you don’t book group seats individually due to fare buckets and how they work. Individual seat prices can very wildly from person to person as those prices only exist for a set amount of seats for a set amount of time.

Premium Cabin Costs

Main Cabin Select (Lowest Roundtrip Market price $239:

Pax 1 – $596.40

Pax 2-5 – $478/head

MCS total – $2508.40

First Class (Lowest Roundtrip Market price $998, uniformly sold at $630 r/t):

First five outbound – $2,495 (Market price $499/person)

Return Pax – $1,301.20, $1,996.40, $499, $499

Total:

$9,299

First class and MCS Upgrades were done by removing the pax from group & booking them into their own reservation. They paid up to double their group fare (MCS paid total of $465 and First paid a total of $630) with the difference on my dime. As you can see, the prices shifted a lot on the return side due to fare buckets.

Extras/Shuttle Costs

O’hare Shuttle:

One 41 pax bus – $806  r/t

One 14 pax van – $575 r/t

Shuttle total: $1,382

Connections:

Some connections were subsidized for special guests from Denver and Los Angeles.

Denver – $449

LAX – $510

Total Connect: $959

Total:

$2,341

This wasn’t as big of an impact as the premium seats, but the debacle of the shuttle did leave some repercussions. I was unable to receive a refund for the cancelled trip, so I made this an opt-in service for those who request a half or full refund out of my own pocket.

So, how much was earned in sales as a result? See below and subtract the difference.

Revenue: $20,360

If you’re too lazy to do math, that was a loss of $5,883.35.

In hindsight, the idea of doing First class upgrades was a great idea. As mentioned in Forming the Flight, the upgrades granted more space for the increased demand as well as allowed for those who wished to enjoy a unique treat. The idea of doing a discounted upgrade came as a compromise after much discussion – either do it free or have them pay full market price. The buckets at the time did stay at $499 one way for both sections and enough for half the cabin, but that is about $1,000 for a round trip ticket. Free would be perfect for the budget-minded furry, but would be a pain for the pocket. Including a 50% extra charge for MCS and 100% for First was a good compromise to ease the pain, if only slightly.

In reality, others got the the fare bucket on the return trip and the extra costs had to be taken in with help from an external investor (in layman’s terms, a good friend).

THE TAKEAWAY

If this was a presentation to potential investors and venture capitalists, this would be an utter failure. I do find it kinda amusing how much like Virgin America itself, we suffered from a financial loss by trying to go extra.

We never expected or planned to make money off this inaugural run as the concern was more about pulling it off than anything (a loss of some sort was expected). For future runs, however, there will be changes to make sure there is some return (just to ensure that we can keep doing this and improve):

  • Make Shuttle an opt-in service.
  • Get a fare agreement with Alaska to ensure a guaranteed lower cost and discounted connection options.
  • Eliminating “discounted” upgrades altogether – Alaska does this for free for those with status and the premium seats (while there will be more of them and thus slightly cheaper) next year won’t be as luxurious.
  • Add a service fee to the ticket cost.

Nevertheless, it was interesting to run the numbers and see how much was spent to make this happen. If you’re planning to run a Furry Convention flight from your area, keep this in mind. It won’t ever be cheap, but you will be paying more for the experience.