It started as a joke between brothers. But it grew into a big idea that’s ready to take flight.
What do you get when you take hassle, wait time, excessive security and costly bureaucracy out of air travel? Teleporting?
Close. Try Surf Air. It’s a whole new kind of airline.
Wade Eyerly had been many things: An economist for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of staff covering Europe and NATO, and a press advance man for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. For the latter job, he spent 27 days out of every month travelling. So it’s no wonder his ears perked up when brother Dave, an operations director for Frontier Airlines, jokingly suggested that they “buy some planes and start their own airline.”
For Dave, it was a solution to the dwindling full-time jobs available for professional pilots. For Wade, it was a way to perfect the imperfect flying experience.
So the brothers conceived a membership-based, hassle-free airline, aimed at frequent flyers. They called it Surf Air – a regional airline serving Palo Alto, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
For $1,000 a month, Surf Air flyers can travel as often as they want. And that’s not the only thing that’s unconventional about the service. It offers members 30-second booking and cancellations, travel to and from uncongested regional airports, and an easy arrive-and-fly process with no hassle, no lines and no extra fees. Best of all it’s exempt from TSA security.
As Fast Company explains it:
Technically, Surf Air isn’t even an airline. The FAA considers it a charter service with permission to fly on regular schedules, so it will be exempt from TSA scrutiny. Surf Air will fly where airlines don’t–from Santa Monica Municipal Airport, say, rather than LAX.
According to Eyerly, 90% of America’s 20,000 airfields operate well below capacity, so he sees great potential in expanding regionally. As he puts it, “It’s an interstate highway system without any cars.”
Admittedly, you need a good chunk of change to buy planes for an airline, but that’s just what the Eyerly’s got in their initial round of talks with venture capitalists. Early investors liked the idea enough to come through with a cool $4 milliion.
Their first purchase? Three Pilatus PC-12, eight-passenger luxury planes, with leather seats and plenty of legroom.
The plan? Today California – tomorrow the world! Their ultimate goal is to set up routes between 25 major American markets – such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, Seattle and San Jose, and New York and Washington DC. With small planes taking off and landing on a set schedule from smaller regional airports.
But for now, they’re busy trying to make SurfAir work in California. Can they do it? Critics point out it’s harder than ever to make money with an airline. In fact, The Economist claims “the American airline sector overall has never really made any money,” (emphasis ours) with total earnings at minus $33 billion.
That’s negative $33 billion -$33 billion in the hole.
But let’s face it, from the very start, aviation has attracted risk takers. Scoffers didn’t deter the Wright Brothers. And they haven’t dissuaded the Eyerly brothers either.
Wade and Dave Eyerly exemplify two axioms featured on our website: Solve a Problem within your Profession and Rethink Your Industry.
Together, they conceived SurfAir — hassle-free on demand flying for short trips.
Now Why Didn’t I Think of That!?