The parent company of Independence Air will reportedly shut down the airline and begin laying off workers on Jan. 7 unless a major buyer or investor comes forward.

Flyi Inc. , which owns the discount airline, warned of the coming deadline in a letter to unionized pilots, flight attendants and mechanics, according to The Washington Post. Without a "significant external investment," the airline will stop flying, the newspaper reported.

Asked about the letter on Thursday, Valerie Wunder, an Independence Air spokeswoman, said, "No certain action is bound to occur on any certain date." The airline is in discussions about its options, she said, and continues to accept customer reservations for travel as normal.

"The company believes there is no absolute deadline in place at this time," she said.

Flyi filed for bankruptcy protection in November, saying at that time that it hoped a court-supervised auction would attract a new investor within the next 60 days.

Chief executive Kerry Skeen has said the airline suffered from bad timing, going independent as the airline industry deals with record fuel prices and extreme shortfalls in revenue.

While Flyi is a major presence at its Dulles Airport hub in suburban Chantilly, Va., it is a significantly smaller carrier than the three major U.S. airlines now operating under bankruptcy protection: United, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines Corp.