BOCA RATON, Fla. - Business consultant Rich Paul-Hus travels throughout Florida, sometimes needing to reach mid-sized cities such as Tallahassee to see an important client.
But, as in many states, it's often a hassle getting to Florida's small or mid-sized cities. It usually requires standing in long security lines at busy airports in Fort Lauderdale or Miami, switching to a commuter plane in Orlando or even Atlanta and paying for an overnight hotel stay because there are no flights home until the next day.
Other alternatives are spending several unproductive hours driving or using a very expensive charter plane.
So count Paul-Hus is as one of many people eagerly anticipating the launch of DayJet, a startup airline that will use a new line of ''very light jets'' to whisk one to three business passengers around the state. Scheduled to launch late August or early September, DayJet hopes its business model could popularize per-seat, ''on-demand'' executive air travel and expand elsewhere, although some observers fear it could end up as a great idea that doesn't didn't work.
''I see DayJet as an opportunity for a business our size to have access to jet travel on demand to meet a client when we need to meet a client,'' said Paul-Hus, vice president of business development for Fort Lauderdale HyPower Inc. ''I would not be at the mercy of commercial scheduling, where I may have to fly to an airport 50 miles or 100 miles away from my final destination.''
DayJet will offer single seats for business travelers who have appointments or meetings in or near Boca Raton, Gainesville, Lakeland, Pensacola and Tallahassee - cities where air service is lacking and places that traditionally have been driving destinations.
The centerpiece of its business model is the new Eclipse 500 jet, which goes up to 425 mph and can get to Lakeland from Boca Raton in about 35 minutes, compared to three hours by car. Airline trade magazines and other observers are tracking DayJet's progress, partially as a referendum on the performance and viability of the Eclipse 500. The jet's speed allows DayJet to lure clients with the proposition that they can travel to their meeting and be home the same day.
''I can get my people directly to where their business circle is, versus having to go to some major airport, fight the [security] lines, get in a rental car and then drive two or three hours,'' DayJet pilot Rick Hemphill said. ''Time is money to these people.''
DayJet CEO Ed Iacobucci wants to have about 50 Eclipse 500 jets in operation by the end of the year, and people such as Mayor John Fretti of Valdosta, Ga., are eager to see if DayJet does well enough to move into other small airports in Florida and the southeast. At least one other company, Concord, Mass.-based air taxi Linear Air, has a deal in place to order 30 Eclipse 500 jets over the next two years to add to its air fleet. The jets cost about $1.6 to $1.7 million each.
''People feel that these airplanes have the ability to basically be little airlines that fly people around so they can avoid the congestion of the larger airports,'' travel consultant Bob Harrell said.
DayJet will use complex mathematic models and formulas to work out how to position jets to get clients to their destinations safely and on time, while trying to make money in the process.
With financing of $68 million, Iacobucci employed what he calls ''ant farmers'' to establish computer models based on demographic data to determine potential demand and logistics in various Florida markets outside of the bigger cities.
''Aviation is how we deliver our service, but there's a whole lot of layers of capabilities that are beneath the surface that you don't see,'' Iacobucci said.
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The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to certify the jets in the next few weeks.
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