Surf Air Mobility: ‘Finding a niche between commercial and private’

Yves Le Marquand

Surf Air Mobility has identified a whitespace in the market between first class commercial and private charter its founder and CEO, Sudhin Shahani, told Corporate Jet Investor. This whitespace is leading Surf Air’s expansion from its origins in frequent short-haul commutes to more interstate and leisure flying both in the US and elsewhere.

As the company prepares to go public, following a $200m investment commitment from Luxembourg-based alternative investment group, GEM (Global Emerging Markets Group), Corporate Jet Investor spoke to Shahani to discover his vision for the future of Surf Air Mobility.

“We’re excited to have GEM as our partner for the next stage of Surf Air Mobility. This investment will help Surf Air Mobility bring aviation into the modern era. It sets us on a path to accelerate the adoption of zero emissions flight, in order to ensure air travel is affordable for everyone and sustainable for generations to come,” said Shahani.

“Surf Air has just celebrated its seventh year of flying, having been in operations since 2013,” continued Shahani. “We’ve stayed focused on perfecting the travel experience on frequent short-haul routes across California and Texas and are now ready to expand not only into new markets across the US and ultimately the world, but also to scale the product to capture a new segment of flyers. We acquired BlackBird earlier this year to establish Surf Air Mobility. With their innovative aviation technology, we’ve set out to be the world’s largest private, personalised air travel platform and marketplace.”

Despite the economic uncertainty, a byproduct of Covid-19, in recent months Surf Air’s business model has proved robust, he said. “The Surf Air experience and business model have stayed resilient. Compared to commercial airlines, Surf Air’s experience is designed around speed, comfort, and health. With 99% less people and 75% less time spent at commercial airports, and with over 100 fewer people on board every flight.”

Shahani said: “In the beginning, we focused on frequent short-haul commuters across California, primarily attracting the business flyer. In recent years, we’ve expanded to interstate flights, including a network across Texas, as well as attracted a more leisure type of flyer.

“Focusing on a premium service, we identified a whitespace in the market between first class commercial and private charter. People who needed more control over their daily travel needs found Surf Air to be the only viable option, one that got them where they needed to be faster without breaking the bank.”

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