ImagineAir merging with Kavoo air taxi service

ImagineAir, the regional air taxi service, said it is merging with a Northeast air taxi company, the Gwinnett County company’s first big step toward national service, Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Hamilton said Thursday.

Hamilton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the merger with Danbury, Conn.-based Kavoo, which serves primarily the Northeast, will allow ImagineAir, which primarily serves the Southeast, to fill the gap between the two regions and provide air taxi service all along the Eastern Seaboard.

“Our mission is to become a nationwide air taxi to free people from the road,” Hamilton said.

ImagineAir currently shuttles clients to more 600 airports in the Southeast, including major commercial hubs and smaller county and municipal airports.

ImagineAir will be the surviving brand after its merger with Kavoo, which is operated by Eagle Air. ImagineAir also will continue to be headquartered in Lawrenceville. Kavoo investors will gain stock in ImagineAir. The combined company will be worth about $4.5 million after the merger, Hamilton said.

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Hamilton said his company will invest in more planes, pilots and maintenance facilities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and improve its online reservation booking technology to accommodate the additional service.

The air taxi service, which has grown in recent years, works similar to ground taxis.

“We take our closest plane to come get you. You just worry about where you want to start from and where you want to end and it’s up to us to figure out what plane is going to come and get you,” Hamilton said. “Just like a taxi cab service, you don’t care where that cab came from. You just care where it’s going.”

Business travel, however, isn’t cheap. A last-minute reservation for a round-trip flight Friday to Charleston, S.C., from Gwinnett and returning the same day would cost about $1,884 on ImagineAir, according to the company’s online reservation, compared with the cheapest commercial flight found on Travelocity of about $1,560.

The ImagineAir customer, however, doesn’t have to share the leather-appointed cabin with scores of other people.

ImagineAir, which began operations in 2007, has about 25 staffers, including 14 pilots. The company has a fleet of 11 Cirrus SR22-GTS aircraft, up from five planes in 2009.

The company has seen a 40 percent growth in its business year over year and expects sales this year of about $3.5 million, up from $1 million in 2009. The company shuttles mainly business clients who generally want to travel up to 300 miles instead of driving the distance or catching a commercial flight. The taxi service makes about 25 trips a day.

Kavoo has three planes and a staff of about six, said Hamilton, who holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech and an MBA from Emory University.

Hamilton expects his company to provide national service in five years.

“We’re investing in our technology to make sure the experience for customers is as quick and easy as possible,” he said.

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