Friday, March 14, 2014

New Orleans flight instructor targets business travelers with small aircraft booking service

The recent addition of direct flights from New Orleans to Austin and San Diego has made traveling to those cities less burdensome for local businesspeople. But for those who regularly travel to regional cities like Shreveport and Jackson, Miss., easy options are limited.

A round-trip drive from New Orleans to Shreveport takes around 10 hours, and chartering a small private jet for the trip can cost upward of $5,000, not including possible fuel surcharges and airport fees.

David Cusimano, 36, started Day Flier to make life easier for the New Orleans businessperson who would rather not waste a day traveling by car or shell out thousands of dollars for a two-hour business meeting.

By consolidating the offerings of small aircraft operators, Day Flier acts as a kind of for light aircraft flights that lie outside the major airline industry.  

"Private air charter companies like Beech and Cirrus exist in a pretty fragmented market, which can make it tough to book flights quickly or compare prices," Cusimano said in a phone interview. "Day Flier puts all the available options and information in one place."

A New Orleans native, Cusimano used to run a flight school called Gulf Coast Aviation, based out of New Orleans Lakefront Airport. A few years ago he helped found a small air charter company by the same name.

Booking the company's four-seat Cirrus SR22 for an hour costs around $500, Cusimano said, far more than the cost of a road trip to Shreveport. But many busy local businesspeople preferred the extra cost to the lost day of travel. He created Day Flier to meet the demand.

When booking a flight online, the site compares the total travel time of Day Flier charters with those of a car or a commercial plane. For now, operators help expedite the online booking process over the phone. Within six months, Cusimano said, the company intends to launch an "instant-booking" option, allowing people to book flights as easily as they might on major travel websites.

"We're trying to highlight the value of your time," Cusimano said.

Day Flier officially launched on Monday (March 10.) It is now available in the New Orleans and Houston markets, but Cusimano plans to expand the service to 10 other cities by the end of the 2014.  

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