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A businessman in Florida has recently started a new type of airline service. DayJet offers direct flights to and from midsized cities, and they're scheduled where and when you want to go. The service is aimed at business travelers without the money to charter a private plane. The company is depending on the latest in computer technology and a new generation of jets.
NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN: Ed Iacobucci has had skeptics before. As the founder of Citrix nearly 20 years ago, he developed a product that at first few companies thought they needed: software that would allow many computers to share a single application. In Citrix, Iacobucci says he created not just software, but a whole new market. He is looking to do something similar with DayJet.
Mr. ED IACOBUCCI (President and CEO, DayJet Corporation): The concept is very, very deceptively simple. Our vision from day one has been to provide commercially viable - and by that, I mean affordable - commercially viable transportation, point to point, on a regional basis - direct.
ALLEN: Seven years ago, Iacobucci left Citrix. After a few years, he realized he wasn't ready for retirement and turned his attention to another interest: aviation. When he was with Citrix, Iacobucci bought his first private jet. He was very busy, and suddenly, he says, he found a way to reclaim what had become a precious asset: his time.
Mr. IACOBUCCI: It was like a drug, you know? I was addicted to the notion that I would travel on my schedule instead of someone else's, and that I could organize my travel around my commitments.
ALLEN: His idea was to make flexible air transportation available to travelers who can't afford to buy or charter their own jet. A big guy with a beard and a baseball cap, Iacobucci dresses Florida casual. But he's busy. He spent the last five years developing his concept and has raised more than $200 million to get DayJet off the ground.
(Soundbite of jet engine)
At one of the company's seven DayPorts, this one in Boca Raton, Iacobucci is out on the tarmac watching the takeoff of a plane that's made his vision possible, the Eclipse 500.
Mr. IACOBUCCI: The operating cost is low. It's modern aircraft, twin turbo-fan. We run with two pilots. And this particular airplane can do the missions that we're doing perfectly. Two to six hundred miles. It's great for that.
ALLEN: And each jet costs well under $2 million. Iacobucci likes the Eclipse so much, he has firm orders in for 300 of them, and he plans to buy several hundred more. DayJet's marketing director, Vicky Harris, climbs into one of the Eclipses. She's flying from Boca Raton to Lakeland, Florida for a meeting and then back. Those are the kinds of trips DayJet is designed for: business travel to and from mid-sized markets, trips typically made by car. Inside, the jet isn't luxurious. There is room for two pilots and just three passengers — and forget about a bathroom. But Harris says she'll have a 40-minute flight instead of a three-and-a-half-hour drive.
Ms. VICKY HARRIS (Marketing Director, DayJet): It's very comfortable. It's like sitting inside an SUV.
ALLEN: It's something like an air taxi, a small jet that's chartered to fly when and where you want. But with DayJet, you don't charter the whole jet, just the seats you need. You first must become a member. And then, Iacobucci says, you book your flight online, much as you would on Expedia or Orbitz.
Mr. IACOBUCCI: They say, I want to go from A to B on such-and-such a day, and I need to be there by 4 o'clock. But - we don't present you a schedule, you just say, I need to be there by 4 o'clock. Now, of course, there's another part of the equation, and that is how early are you willing to leave. Okay. And that's where the magic happens.
ALLEN: The earlier you're willing to leave, the cheaper your ticket. DayJet calls it per seat, on demand jet service. Making it possible is real-time logistics software that allows the company to respond immediately to customer demand. It's all brand-new and exciting, but will it make money? Analyst Vaughn Cordle of Airline Forecasts says DayJet's business plan could work if it can get a couple hundred planes flying and keep prices below $1,000 per hour. But he sees problems with the reliability of a jet not designed for commercial use and the less-than-glamorous appeal of a flight that's like riding in the back of a van.
Mr. VAUGHN CORDLE (Analyst, Airline Forecasts): I am quite skeptical that they can reach those volumes that they need at the price they need to make that a viable business.
ALLEN: It may be risky, but DayJet has lots of company. More than a dozen other new air taxi companies are struggling to get off the ground in markets around the U.S. and a similar number are starting up in Europe.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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