Surf Air’s Subscription-Based Business Takes Off in Europe

June 23, 2017, 4:33 AM UTC
Inside The Australian International Aerospace and Defence Exposition
A Phenom 300 jet aircraft, manufactured by Embraer SA, sits on the tarmac at the Australian International Airshow held at Avalon Airport in Geelong, Australia, on Thursday, March 2, 2017. The airshow runs through March 5. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images

U.S. subscription-based airline Surf Air launched in Europe on Friday as it bids to tap into the frequent flyer market, challenging the continent’s traditional airlines with a model of unlimited flights for a monthly fee.

Surf Air Europe’s first flight will be from London Luton to Ibiza, and for a subscription of 1,750 pounds ($2,216.55) a month, customers will be able to fly within Europe to destinations such as Cannes, Zurich, Geneva and Milan as much as they like.

Surf Air Europe Chief Executive Simon Talling-Smith said that between U.S. and European operations it hopes to achieve revenues of $100 million for 2017, with European flights making up about a fifth of the group’s total business by the end of the year.

The London-headquartered airline will try to better what its sister company, Surf Air, has done in California. Launched in 2013, that company now has 3,000 members.

He also confirmed that the group was ordering Embraer and Pilatus planes.

“In the U.S. we have 12 Pilatus, and we have another 43 on order. We’ve just now taken delivery of our first jet aircraft, which is an Embraer Phenom 300, which will be operating in Europe,” Talling-Smith told Reuters.

“We intend to build up a similar sized fleet of jets over the next three to five years.”

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He said that a couple of hundred people had pre-purchased membership ahead of the launch, and that this was in-line with his expectations.

Surf Air says that it provides flexibility for business passengers who need to travel. The 1,750 pound monthly fee compares with a last minute, flexible business class return between London and Zurich of about 500 pounds.

It also cuts down on waiting times at airports.

“We have the opportunity for our members to get to the airport just 15 minutes before the flight goes,” Talling-Smith said.