Air taxi services growing

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Mike McMenamin values his time -- the CEO and founder of Access Insurance Co. in Atlanta is always on the move.

This week, he's using air taxi services by ImagineAir to travel to the Masters Tournament. He flew in Thursday morning and returned home later that day by 5 p.m., in time for dinner and to prepare for work Friday.

"It is, by far, the easiest solution to traveling there and back in the same day. When you have a very busy schedule, it's nice to be able to take a quick day trip," Mr. McMenamin said.

He is among an increasing number of fliers who are opting for air taxi services -- private air travel that is based on an individual's schedule -- offered by companies such as ImagineAir, SATSair and DayJet. It's a growing industry that hit the market about three years ago, and it's designed to help people maximize their time.

For three years Mr. McMenamin has been using air taxi services for business, personal travel and to reach his beach home. He said that he saves time by avoiding the "limitation of departure times, ticketing, security and boarding" of commercial airlines.

ImagineAir, based in Lawrenceville, Ga., has completed more than 500 taxi flights since it opened a year ago. About 65 flights originated in the Augusta area, said Haroon Qureshi, the director of public relations and sales.

"We're looking at possibly having a base in Augusta and putting aircraft there. That will potentially lower fares in Augusta," he said. If selected, Augusta could become a base within six months, he said.

ImagineAir provides flights to about 400 destinations in the Southeast. The company's clients are mostly business travelers, who can book flights online for convenience. They arrive only 15 minutes before departure, and an aircraft is waiting for them, Mr. Qureshi said.

"They love that they can fly somewhere, do their business and come home to have dinner with their family, maybe watch their kid's soccer game," he said.

Likewise, Greenville, S.C.-based SATSair has experienced considerable growth, said Phil Quist, the vice president of business systems. The air taxi service flies throughout the Southeast and has been operating since 2005.

"The growth has been fabulous. We're definitely exceeding our plans," Mr. Quist said.

In March, SATSair had a record 2,000 passengers. The company has exceeded 7 million passenger miles since it began flying, he said.

"We're flying about 1,800 passengers a month in the Southeast. For Georgia, we're up about 70 percent in flights in the state."

Mr. Quist said the company services airports in smaller communities, while major airports only target core cities. "We're seeing a lot of growth in that area right now."

Eighty percent of SATSair's customers are business clients, but customers also use the service for weekend trips and sporting events.

The company had 25 bookings for clients to fly into Augusta for the Masters Tournament. Some clients will fly from major airports in Atlanta and Charlotte.

Several PGA professionals, including Charles Warren, use SATSair's services.

"There's also a lot of use for NASCAR, football and baseball events. Pretty much every week there is a NASCAR event in the Southeast, we're flying into the airports," he said.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based DayJet is also doing well after six months in operation, said Vicky Harris, the director of marketing.

Ms. Harris said that DayJet has 2,000 members, or customers, who have entered a one-year agreement to make four one-way or two round trips a year. Half of these customers have already used the service.

Established in 2002, the company has 45 total destinations. DayJet launched its per-seat, on-demand services in October, Ms. Harris said. She said the service is the first of its type.

Augusta is considered a "day stop" for DayJet and was added in February. Customers can fly from any day stop to one of 10 Southeastern cities, or "day ports."

"Almost 99 percent of the DayJet focus is on regional business travel," Ms. Harris said. "We have roughly a 40 percent repeat rate."

She said that DayJet is reaching a "whole new tier of business travelers. They're not the CEOs or the rich and famous. These are the road warriors who spend the bulk of their time driving from meeting to meeting, That's the void we're trying to fill."

In the Southeast, Ms. Harris said, 80 percent of all regional business trips are driven. DayJet's goal is to enable mid-level managers and directors "to increase their productivity, restore their quality of life and work more efficiently."

"We're seeing strong use among construction, real estate, financial services, insurance, legal and lobbyist sectors," Ms. Harris said.

Air taxi service eliminates driving time, hotel costs and per diem rates and helps professionals pursue last-minute business deals, she said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

AIR TAXI SERVICES


IMAGINEAIR


- Based in Lawrenceville, Ga.


- Flies to 400 destinations in the Southeast


- Has fleet of five Cirrus SR-22 GTS aircraft. Will add another five to 10 and several Eclipse 500 VLJ this year.


- Flies into Daniel Field Airport, Augusta Regional Airport, Thomson-McDuffie County Airport and Aiken Municipal Airport.


- Sample price: one-way flight from Augusta to Charleston: $545. Round trip: $784.


- Booked flights to Augusta for Masters Tournament: 10-15

SATSAIR (SMART AIR TRAVEL SOLUTIONS)


- Based in Greenville, S.C.


- Flies to destinations in the Southeast


- Has 26 Cirrus SR-22 aircraft in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia


- Flies into Daniel Field Airport, Augusta Regional Airport, Thomson-McDuffie County Airport and Aiken Municipal Airport.


- Sample price: charges a flat rate for an entire plane -- the average customer pays about $500 an hour.


- Booked flights to Augusta for the Masters Tournament: 25

DAYJET


- Based in Boca Raton, Fla.


- Flies to 45 destinations in the Southeast


- Has 2,000 members -- customers who have entered a one-year agreement to make four one-way or two round trips per year.


- Has 28 Eclipse 500 VLJ


- Augusta is a "day stop" and clients can fly from a day stop to any of 10 "day ports," including Macon and Savannah, Ga.; Montgomery, Ala.; and Pensacola, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Lakeland, Naples, Boca Raton, and Opa Locka, Fla.


- Sample price: (from Augusta to Montgomery) If you set a flexible window of four hours to complete trip: one-way, per seat fare is $716. Or, very flexible window of six hours: one-way, per seat fare is $500.

Comments (7) Add comment
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Farful
7
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Farful 04/12/08 - 09:33 am
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0
if you dont mind riding in

if you dont mind riding in single engine airplanes

The Knave
24
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The Knave 04/12/08 - 10:58 am
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The Eclipse 500 is a twin

The Eclipse 500 is a twin engine jet aircraft, not a "single engine" plane.

SON of Scoob
434
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SON of Scoob 04/13/08 - 07:14 am
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ghtty you ride in single

ghtty you ride in single engine automobiles.

Farful
7
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Farful 04/13/08 - 10:58 am
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ur right knave. the sr22 in

ur right knave. the sr22 in the photo is a single.

son of scoob, I can pull over to the side of the highway in my single engine car

tulip1129
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tulip1129 04/14/08 - 10:42 am
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The Cirrus SR22 not only has

The Cirrus SR22 not only has a fantastic safety record, but a total plane parachute for instances where an emergency landing isn't possible. Most Cirrus accidents are due to inexperienced piloting, not mechanics; and these companies are required to hire experienced pilots.

Farful
7
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Farful 04/14/08 - 11:26 am
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thank you tulip

thank you tulip

Farful
7
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Farful 04/14/08 - 10:04 pm
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0
it's two turbine engines and

it's two turbine engines and two pilots for me.

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