New airline promises Netflix-style travel
Start-up Surf Air is charging a monthly all you can fly subscription for business travellers.
It’s being called the “Netflix of business travel”.
Surf Air, a new start-up airline based in Burbank, California, is offering monthly, “all you can fly” subscriptions – promising a corporate jet experience at a fraction of the cost.
Subscribers pay $1,650 per month for unlimited flights aboard Surf Air’s Swiss-made, single-engine, eight-passenger Pilatus PC-12 turboprops. However, as with Netflix, which allows customers to order all the DVDs they want but hold only a few at a time, Surf Air limits travellers to a maximum of four boarding passes at one time.
Starting 12 June, the small-scale carrier will offer short-haul flights between four California cities: San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Eventually it plans to expand service to Palm Springs, San Diego, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe and the Sonoma/Napa area.
What’s in it for business travellers?
Surf Air promises no-hassle travel and high-end concierge service for frequent travellers. Members can book flights online or on their smart phones in seconds; enjoy free, unlimited parking; and board through private air terminals. There’s no check-in, no TSA screening and no boarding lines.
There’s also no extra fees for luggage, last-minute reservation changes or refreshments, all of which are included in the subscription. In two surprise perks, Surf Air subscribers get unlimited, complimentary guest passes, allowing them to book accompanying flyers for free. And members will have the golden opportunity to network with other business travellers aboard the small, local flights.
Is this a new business travel model?
If starting a business is challenging, starting an airline is doubly so. It is an extremely capital-intensive, high-risk venture with a high failure rate. Even most large US carriers have experienced operational turbulence, with bankruptcy, labour disputes and restructuring.
But Surf Air CEO Wade Eyerly says that’s exactly why his start-up will succeed.
“This is a market desperate for disruption. Airlines are literally the only industry that ranked below cable companies for what people think of them – dead last among 47 industries surveyed. No one likes flying,” he told National Public Radio.
Still, for Surf Air to succeed some milestones will need to be met. It will need to attain enough subscribers to support the operating costs and keep them happy enough to renew their membership. Because it services business travellers, Surf Air must also make convenience and stellar customer service a priority.