Surf Air seeks to redefine the future of flying as membership ‘airline’ rides the waves in Europe

Now in its fourth year of operation in the United States of America (USA), Surf Air has this week taken to the skies in Europe bringing its successful private aviation concept the Continent. Surf Air Europe introduced its “all-you-can-fly” membership club that offers members unlimited flights for a subscription fee of from £1,750 per month.

The start-up initially launched flights on June 23, 2017 between London Luton and Ibiza and will add services to Cannes from July 4, 2017 using a six-seat Embraer Phenom 300 managed on its behalf by UK-based aircraft management company FlairJet. Flights are expected to be added to Luxembourg, Milan, Munich and Zurich from September, while other major cities on its radar include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Geneva and Paris.

So how does the concept work? Well, members can book tickets are booked via an app and travellers are only required to arrive 15 minutes before their flight leaves. Surf Air is pitching itself as an easy way to travel from booking to getting to your final destination and hopes to tempt frequent flyers away from more established airlines by promising to ease the travelling experience as well as offering what it claims are savings on business class tickets.

The Surf Air concept has proved successful in the US and has expanded to now comprise a membership list of over 4,000 people with a regular network of around 90 daily flights across California, Nevada and Texas, flown mainly using Pilatus PC-12NG equipment. The Europe operation has  commenced with just a single Phenom 300, but will grow to five aircraft by the end of this year and hopes to hit a dozen aircraft within three to five years.

IMAGE – Surf Air Europe’s Initial and Planned Expanded Route NetworkSource: Surf Air Europe

The operation is based on the flexibility it provides for business passengers, especially those that travel regularly, often change their plans or need to fly at short notice. The £1,750 monthly fee compares with last minute, flexible business class return fares of around half that price, but by using private aviation facilities significantly cuts down on waiting and processing times at airports. Analysis by The Blue Swan Daily of last minute flexible business class flights between London and Ibiza this week shows British Airways demanding fares of up to £900, with a one-way ticket approaching £600.

The start-up will certainly entice some frequent flyers to its operations, but with flights currently only operating in and out of London Luton airport it could face significant issues attracting corporates needing access to and from central London. A second London base is expected to be added, as well as regional flights from the UK as the business seeks to challenge Europe’s traditional airlines.

Surf Air Europe’s chief executive Simon Talling-Smith acknowledges that a couple of hundred subscriptions have already been sold, in line with its expectations. “Surf Air offers a smarter, better alternative to commercial travel. Our streamlined service means no queues, no tickets and no stress,” he says. “We help our community of members free their time for what matters most.”

Surf Air Europe suggests that its members could save an average of two hours per flight. “That means arriving sharp and ready to do business, getting valuable face-time with the client, getting home in time for dinner, and any or all of the above,” it says.

Linking with its new European activities with its sister US operation Surf Air hopes to achieve revenues of $100 million for 2017, according to reports, with European flights making up about a fifth of the group’s total business by the end of the year. With a large number of Pilatus PC-12NGs already on the orderbook in the US, it is likely that the six-to-nine-seat turboprop will also be used for flights in Europe.