An ambitious Halifax startup that aims to make it easier for the world’s 1.7 million airline employees to take vacations, will be one of the pitchers at the Propel ICT Demo Day on tonight.

Danna Lavallee, an airline industry veteran, will present GoBumpFree, which allows airline employees and their families to book last-minute hotel rooms and, if needed, cancel them at a moment’s notice. The product was developed by Airline Employee Travel Inc, the company she owns with her husband Colin Lavallee.

The company has already signed up three airlines to market the product to their employees and a range of hotels and resorts around the world, and the list is growing.

“We just rolled out to Air Canada Jazz and Southwest Airlines in the States, and a smaller airline,” she said in an interview last week. “Even if the airline doesn’t have a relationship with us, employees can still sign on and use the site.”

Lavallee loves the “amazing benefits” she enjoys as an airline employee, especially the low-cost fights around the world. (She once flew the New York for lunch, and paid more for lunch than her flight.) But the problem is that airline employees have to fly standby. If they are bumped from their flights, they still have to pay for the hotel room they booked.

During a trip to Virginia Beach, Lavallee realized there are thousands of hotel rooms lying empty in most resorts at any given time. She thought there would be a business case for offering these rooms last minute to airline employees, and let them cancel without penalty.

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GoBumpFree is the result. The app looks like most hotel reservation sites, but with one major difference. The system only lets users book their first night three days in advance. It means hotels and resorts that know they will have vacancies can put the rooms into the GoBumpFree system and appeal to airline employees, who tend to book holidays last minute.

Lavallee has been making steady progress with the company in the last few years. She was a finalist in Innovacorp’s I-3 competition, which netted the company more than $100,000. Then she began raising private capital and was accepted into the Propel ICT accelerator.

The financing and guidance she has received helped her to attend two international trade shows this year, where she made contacts with key players in her two key markets – hotel owners and airlines.

The company, whose team includes people in Nova Scotia, the U.S., Mexico and India, now has a pipeline that includes 50,000 to 60,000 hotels and resorts in 60 countries, and 45 airlines. The job now is to convert more and more of these sales leads into actual users of the site.

Airline Employee Travel has so far raised $580,000 in private equity investment, and Lavallee said it will be looking to raise another round of capital soon.

“We want to focus on execution and within six months start another round,” she said. In particular, she want to convert more of the properties in her pipeline, and add a few new features to the GoBumpFree pipeline.


The Propel ICT Demo Day begins at 5:30 tonight at Pier 21 in Halifax. You can get your free tickets here. If you can’t make the event in person, Startup Kitchen will be livestreaming it here