The “Netflix” of airlines: new start-up promises unlimited flying for $800p/m

The Californian start-up airline hopes its subscription model will be a big hit with frequent flyers.

Surf Air aims to offer unlimited travel on its executive style eight-seater PC-12 planes along California routes.

It’s the closest thing to renting your own private plane and travellers won’t have to endure TSA-style airport security checks.

A start-up airline wants to take the hassle out of air travel for frequent flyers, by offering unlimited flights for a fixed monthly subscription fee.

Surf Air is gearing up to kick-start flights to and from regional US airports this summer – starting with short hops between Palo Alto, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in California.

The airline recently began selling subscriptions to its “all-you-can-fly” shuttle service – which starts at $790 (£498) for unlimited flights and is limited to two reservations at a time.

Travellers can upgrade to hold up to six reservations at any time for $1490 (£940) and all members must initially sign up to a three-month contract, after which they pay on a monthly basis.

And as flights will depart from regional US airports, Surfair will take a different, TSA-compliant approach to security by running background checks of every customer who signs up.

Its founders, brothers, Wade and David Eyerly say they want Surf Air to be the “Netflix of private travel” – by offering frequent flyers a simplified flying experience, without the fees and charges that can catch out travellers on regular commercial flights.

Members will be able to change or cancel their bookings – including at short notice – without extra cost, they added.

But unlike all-you-can stream services like Netflix, the airline version won’t have mainstream appeal.

The subscription model will only appeal to those who travel regularly on the airline’s circuit and feel they can get their money’s worth from the service.

Customers on the airline’s radar will include business commuters and wealthy individuals with a holiday home near the four airports on the airline’s route map.

Surf Air will start up with two single engine turboprop aircraft that can shuttle just eight passengers at a time, bringing executive-style travel and comfort but limited seats to the market.

Membership has therefore been limited to 500 subscribers, initially.

The airline’s founders say they hope to expand service with other short routes in time – such as to Las Vegas, Palm Springs, San Diego and Sacramento.

Unlimited flights nothing new

The idea of paying upfront for unlimited flights is nothing new – and has in the past been offered by major airlines including Air Canada, JetBlue, Air India (on domestic flights), Sun Country Airlines and Brazil’s budget airline, Azul.

However, airlines have only taken the model so far, by offering unlimited passes for a limited time only.

Surf Air hopes it will be able to take the model to new heights.

While the venture still needs final approval from the FAA before it can get off the ground, whether the subscription model lasts the distance will depend on many factors.

Critics question if business travellers will be prepared to give up their frequent flyer miles earnt on traditional US carriers.

Other challenges include whether the airline’s flat monthly subscription charge will be enough to make the airline a profit – against a backdrop of volatile oil prices and high operating costs on its small aircraft.

And it remains to be seen if travellers will pay up and not travel as much as they think they will, or whether demand for seats will outstrip supply.

Do you think Surf Air’s subscription service is a good idea? Let us know below.

What others have said

  1. OMG! Why do people always argue in these forums? People need to learn how to stay focused and not make it political/racial, etc.

    This is a great idea and hopefully one that makes a profit so they can expand!!

  2. Outstanding idea and I hope it takes off (pun more or less intended). If I were a frequent or even a semi-frequent traveler to the SF Bay area I would jump on this to avoid the never-ending hassle by the overstepping and arrogant TSA losers and the incredible mistreatment by airlines who insist on cramming more seats in airplanes than the airplanes were designed for. Yup, this is a great offering to travelers!

  3. So summer you “claim” to be in aviation? Obviously not you cant even get a commercial pilots certificate without 250 hours. How is a single engine aircraft less safe? Your ignorance is obvious, your type are the exact reason people are scared to fly. Only knows enough to be stupid! There will be two pilots with captains needing 2,000 hours and and an ATP you know a air line transport pilot certificate the highest rating you can achieve and for first officer they want 500 hours of experience with turbine time! Your stupidcomment is laughable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. The idea is okay but it will not make it off the ground. The reason is that the niche market is to small and to specific to gain any traction; however, operating smaller planes to side-step the TSA is a great idea and if Surf Air is smart, they will build the airline around this notion. Maybe once they are established they can offer the unlimited flying service but not to get the flight off the ground.

  5. I’m a jet instructor and Air Transport pilot with 5,000 hours of safe flight time and applying to be a captain with Surf Air.The Pilatus PC-12 has 2-pilot crew, relatively new aircraft, state of the art navigation, proven Pratt&Whitney turboprop engine.Surf Air is governed by FAA Regulation 135,and will be a great alternate to the “cattle cars” airlines.

  6. So Sommer, you think flying in a single engine aircraft with a pilot that has maybe 10-15 hours of exerience (or even less) is “safer”…? Oh, okay. I’m in aviation. Better think again…it also doesn’t mention that yearly amount you need to put up to “join” this program. But if you have an extra $20k around to fly in a less safe aircrat good for you.

  7. I will pay triple or quadruple the price of a normal airline ticket to fly safely: that is, safe from the TSA’s threats to sexually assault me or show naked images of my body to rapists like Harold Rodman in the pornography rooms. Please, Surf Air, start up an east coast service!

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