Just a week before EBACE opened, air-limo start-up DayJet of Delray Beach, Florida, announced it would start its “per-seat, on-demand” jet service in the southeastern U.S. this November with Eclipse 500 VLJs. Here in Geneva, Traver Gruen-Kennedy, DayJet vice president for community and governmental affairs, joined Eclipse Aviation chairman and CEO Vern Raburn and Neil Harvey, manager of executive aviation at aircraft broker Hunt & Palmer of the UK, on yesterday’s panel discussing very light jets. The theme the panel addressed was “Will the business model really work in Europe’s congested and very expensive airspace?”
Gruen-Kennedy, who took DayJet president and CEO Ed Iacobucci’s place on the panel, told EBACE Convention News that DayJet does not have “active plans” to establish operations in Europe at this time, although the company has had a number of inquiries and is open to discussions. “We’re focused on getting started in the U.S. first,” he said. Iacobucci had planned to be on the panel but had to attend scheduled meetings with the FAA.
Gruen-Kennedy described what DayJet plans to do in the U.S. and discussed the European cross-border issues (including ATC, taxes and cabotage) that would present challenges to DayJet’s mode of operation on the Continent.
Service Beginning at Five Florida Airports
DayJet service will begin among five airports in Florida and then spread to 20 airports throughout the region by the end of next year. By year-end, DayJet expects to have 30 Eclipse 500s, though about 20 percent of the fleet will be hot-standby airplanes used to recover trips due to delays or maintenance issues.
Last month, Iacobucci said DayJet chose the Southeast because of its population of 52.9 million, nearly half of which lives in areas with secondary airline service; 52 million annual intra-regional business trips, 40 million by automobile and 12 million by airplane; poor intra-regional airline service, with the average flight/connection being six hours or more; 337 “qualifying” general aviation airports; and the proximity to DayJet’s headquarters.
Although there are 337 southeastern airports from which DayJet’s Eclipse 500s could operate, Iacobucci said it would be impossible to operate at every airport since DayJet plans to have ground staff to assist customers before and after their flights. He said DayJet will choose airports that “make the most sense” from an operational and profit view.
Each airport served by the air-limo operator is classified as either a DayPort or DayBase. Five to 10 DayJet customer service representatives will staff a DayPort over two work shifts; a DayBase is an expanded DayPort with crew and maintenance facilities.
All customer trips will begin or end at a DayPort or DayBase between the weekday operating hours of approximately 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., while pilots will begin and end their nine-hour shift at a DayBase. At launch, the company will have three DayPorts and two DayBases; thereafter, DayJet plans to maintain a 3:1 ratio between ports and bases.
Depending on a customer’s travel window, ticket pricing will vary from $1 to $3 per mile, about a 40-percent premium over first-class travel on the airlines. DayJet has said that its break-even load factor would be 1.4 passengers per trip; aircraft will be configured with three passenger seats.
To facilitate its launch later this year, DayJet already holds a Part 135 certificate and has validated its real-time optimization software, which is the enabling technology that allows it to make a profit on on-demand, per-seat air service.
In fact, two teams at Georgia Tech tested the software and found that its routing solutions are optimal 98 percent of the time. DayJet’s software is not only accurate–it was able to optimize 300 aircraft flights in seconds while “traditional” optimization software took more than four hours to do so, according to Iacobucci.
Meanwhile, he said DayJet is working with Raymond James Financial to secure its last round of funding–approximately $135 million. Iacobucci said this capital should be enough to take the company to profitability, which he estimates should occur late next year.