Wooing WestJet will now become work for a mob — a big happy, dancing mob.
The City of Penticton is looking to harness the power of viral media to lure the Calgary-based airline to establish a regional carrier route locally by filming a flash mob video this Saturday.
According to Mayor Dan Ashton, the community is strongly encouraged to take part.
“We need everybody and anybody who can come out to this,” he said during Monday’s council meeting. “Please come forward, bring your dancing shoes, check in at the north part of the airport and wear blue or green.”
Coun. Andrew Jakubeit said the idea came from chief administrative officer Annette Antoniak, who thought that the city would benefit from additional displays of support as part of Penticton’s business case to be delivered to WestJet.
“The concept was to create some sort of flash mob, grab that on video, throw it on YouTube and send it to WestJet executives to show there is community support for WestJet,” Jakubeit said.
Antoniak said when they first developed the idea, she contacted Barb Haynes from the Downtown Penticton Association as a first step of spreading the word. Since then, she said, the pieces have been falling into place.
They have chosen Rusted Root’s Send Me on My Way to perform, and Jakubeit said that the Okanagan School of Dance has put together 40 or 50 dancers who have choreographed and practised moves for the song.
For those who don’t regularly visit YouTube or aren’t Howie Mandell fans, a flash mob is considered a group of people in a public place who suddenly begin dancing, singing or performing some type of random act. Although to a surprised passerby it may initially seem spontaneous, the performance is typically co-ordinated through text, social media or email.
“There’s a component near the end where we want everyone from the community to come out and we’ll teach you a very simple dance move,” Jakubeit said. “When we combine 700 people or 1,000 people at the airport from there, telling WestJet we want them to come through, I think that will really help put it a little bit over the top or help Penticton gain a competitive edge with respect to wooing WestJet and showing them that there certainly is community support for their regional service.
“It’s really exciting and it’s coming together real quick.”
Penticton is in the midst of developing a comprehensive business case to entice WestJet to establish an eastern route among its proposed regional carrier offerings, set to include a fleet of 40 smaller, turbo-prop aircrafts for short-haul flights.
One element of that prospectus will be community support, which can be evidenced through various means including social media. A Facebook page has been created to entice WestJet to the community, while those on Twitter have been using the hashtag #WestJetPenticton to promote discussion. There are also online petitions and surveys relating to the issue.
“This town has been very supportive of Air Canada Jazz. This is not to try to get another airline to replace Jazz, it’s that we feel there’s enough opportunities for good competition in Penticton and good competition on the routes,” Ashton said.
The community must check-in by noon on Saturday, March 10 at the north gate of the Penticton Regional Airport, by the luggage carousel. Ashton stressed that those looking to take part must arrive on time, as organizers only have a narrow window for filming in between flights. He added that there will be ample parking on Airport Road, and suspected that special arrangements would be made for the paid parking lot as well.