DayJet founder Ed Iacobucci is encouraged that the initial results of his per-seat, on-demand service have been "much better" than the company´s worst-case scenarios - while not as good as the best estimates - and said the company continues to look at its growth plans in response to the early returns. "We have a lot of wonderful data" from the first two months of operations, Iacobucci told BA, and said the company has learned some things.
Those returns, and customer feedback, resulted in DayJet moving up its plans to add the 28 destinations to it service area (BA, Dec. 10/263), he said. The addition of the 28 destinations provides customers "bonus locations" and gives them more flexibility, Iacobucci said, adding the service network increase had been in its plan all along, but not until next year. DayJet originally planned to increase the number of "DayPorts," locations where the company has ground infrastructure and employees to support the service. DayJet launched with five DayPorts, all in Florida. But plans for additional DayPorts have now been pushed off until the first quarter of 2008, he said. Iacobucci declined to say where the next DayPorts might be, but said company executives are actively negotiating with local officials at the potential next sites.
The response to service shows that DayJet is tapping into a new group of customers who have never before chartered an aircraft, he said. The number of members who have signed on for DayJet service has grown since launch from 700 to 1,000. But Iacobucci stressed that the company is not actively recruiting new members right now since it still trying to manage its growth in a measured fashion.
Iacobucci also believes that there is growth potential among the existing membership. Some 50 percent of the members have sought quotes for specific trips, and a number of them are flying multiple trips. The most active member flew for the 14th time last week, he said, adding that member flies about every five days.
The number of flights roughly doubled in the second month of service compared with the first month. DayJet was up to nearly 50 customer bookings and about 100 flight segments a week by last week.
The feedback they´ve gotten from members who have flown is "almost too good to believe," Iacobucci said, adding "We´ve gotten straight As" on the service. He added that he also is pleased about the feedback regarding the Eclipse 500 Very Light Jets that make up DayJet´s fleet. Customers have found the aircraft quieter than they expected, he said. "The aircraft is proving itself very nicely," he said. "This is not by any stretch of the imagination a long-shot in this market." The performance, fuel burn, and service of the airplane have been living up to expectations, he said.
DayJet has taken delivery of 23 aircraft, Iacobucci said, noting that six to eight are flying on a given day. Another eight are used for training, since DayJet does not yet have access to simulators, and "some of the early ones are catching up in service bulletins." The company expects to take five more by the end of the year. The 28 aircraft are within the company´s fleet targets for the year, but are on the low end. DayJet expected to have anywhere between 28 and 40 aircraft by the end of 2007, he said. Iacobucci acknowledged questions surrounding the financial situation at Eclipse Aviation, but said he is not concerned that his fleet will become "orphan" aircraft. He stressed he could not speak for Eclipse, but said right now the E500 is the only aircraft that fits the DayJet model in terms of volume, availability, cost and design for high frequency use. "My first objective is to prove the model," he said, adding "28 airplanes give us plenty of airplanes to get us through this phase."
He added that DayJet also believes that it won´t always be limited to one airplane type. DayJet would like to add a second, slightly larger model as demand grows. He´s been actively looking at potential candidates, he said. But DayJet will stay with one aircraft model until the number of passengers per flight picks up. DayJet currently is carrying about 1.3 to 1.4 passengers each flight segment.