DayJet lays off staff in the face of funding shortfall

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The hiring frenzy has reversed at DayJet, where ill-timed financing has come up short and led the Florida-based air taxi operator to lay off 100 employees.

DayJet has been beset with troubles since its launch in October 2007, caused by problems with avionics, windshields, pitots and other systems as well as delays to the Eclipse 500 delivery schedule.

DayJet president Ed Iacobucci says 30-50 aircraft are needed "to reach critical scale", but "this required a $40M infusion of operating capital in the first quarter of 2008". He adds: "The timing of our planned financing could not have been worse."

The pilots, mechanics and support staff steadily recruited since early 2007 are dependent on the future growth that is now on hold, he says. Growth will continue more slowly than intended until capital markets support broad expansion.

"All in all, we have signed over 1,500 members, more than 550 of which are active travellers, and nearly 200 are frequent flyers," he says.

DayJet vice-president of strategic operations Traver Gruen-Kennedy says those travellers have asked for more Dayports than expected - the 12 small airports where customers must begin or end their "per-seat, on-demand" trip. "We learned people wanted more places to go, so we expanded [from the original five]", he says.

Today Dayjet has 32 aircraft, which are operating smoothly with new Avio NG avionics, and have been arriving monthly in batches of four. "Our expectation is that we'll have about 100 aircraft by the end of the calendar year," he says.

"If you had 30-plus [Eclipse 500s], 95% of them were dispatchable and you flew three to five flights every day, that's pretty good activity."

DayJet service reaches into five states, but most travel is carried out within Florida.