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January 15, 2013
By Ian J. Twombly
Netflix revolutionized the home movie business model when it offered consumers the ability to rent an unlimited amount of movies a month, but only hold a certain amount at a time. Now Surf Air is hoping to do the same with private aviation.
The brainchild of Wade Eyerly, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, and his pilot brother David, Surf Air is an all-you-can-fly airline based in Los Angeles. The concept works much like Netflix. For an anticipated price of $1,000 a month, members will be able to fly between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and soon after Monterey and Santa Barbara, an unlimited number of times, but only hold four boarding passes at a time.
Wade Eyerly says he thinks the business will bring private aviation to a group of people who have never experienced it before. He compared it to getting your first smartphone—an entire new world opens up. “We’ve created an entire airline for frequent flyers,” he said. “If you go to LA three or four times a month, this is a godsend for you.”
For that godsend to come, Surf Air must be granted a charter certificate from the FAA, which it is still waiting for. Initially the company will be flying Pilatus PC-12s. Eyerly says the trip is only about seven minutes faster in a jet, but it’s a lot cheaper in the PC-12.
If initial membership applicants are any indication, Surf Air may be on to something. Eyerly said the company has 3,500 applications for 500 initial membership slots. “The worst thing you can do in an all-you-can-eat buffet is send people home hungry,” he said. With that in mind, the membership will be capped, and only adjusted as Surf Air figures out the usage patterns.
If the company is successful and Surf Air branches out, any trip that equates to between a two-and-a-half and six hour drive is a good route, Eyerly said. To that end, the Obama administration’s high-speed railway map pretty much approximates the perfect route map.
And yes, the company is still hiring pilots.
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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