DayJet plans for Southeast service launch

 - September 18, 2006, 10:26 AM

Air-limo startup DayJet of Delray Beach, Fla., late last month revealed its launch region–the Southeast–and said it would start on-demand, per-seat operations with Eclipse 500 VLJs in November. DayJet president and CEO Ed Iacobucci said the service will initially be among five airports in Florida–which will be announced next month–and then spread to 20 airports throughout the region by the end of next year. By year-end, DayJet will 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.

According to Iacobucci, DayJet chose the Southeast region because of its population of 52.9 million, nearly half of whom live 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, not to mention the 16-percent reduction of direct air service between 2000 and 2005;  337 “qualifying” general aviation airports; and proximity to DayJet’s headquarters.

While there are 337 Southeastern airports from which DayJet’s Eclipse 500s could operate, Iacobucci pointed out that his company will serve only some. He 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. Iacobucci said his company will choose airports that “make the most sense” from an operational and profit view.

Each airport served by the air limo 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.

In the next month or so, DayJet will begin hiring its first batch of pilots. Pilot qualifications are 3,000 hours TT; 1,000 hours PIC; 1,000 hours multi-engine; 500 hours PIC jet; and an ATP certificate. Iacobucci said “additional consideration” would be given to check airmen and instructor pilots, as well as those with EFIS flight experience.

Working the System

At first, DayJet will be hiring captains, with the starting pay about $50,000. Benefits include equity/stock options; 401k; medical, dental, vision, disability and life insurance; paid holidays, vacation and time off on weekends; and ongoing professional development. Iacobucci said so far he has received about 1,000 unsolicited pilot resumes through DayJet’s Web site (www.dayjet.com).

Pilots will be assigned to shifts (two shifts daily, Monday through Friday) that will be rotated to ensure that everyone is “provided with a fair and equitable lifestyle.” Further, DayBases–the hubs for pilots and maintenance technicians–will be selected to maximize employees’ quality of life. “We intend to squeeze the most out of the system, not the employees,” noted 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.