Surf Air catches a European wave


Surf Air, which describes itself as “the world’s first all-you-can-fly membership airline”, has launched its first service between two of Europe’s leading financial centres.

It had a successful maiden flight from London to Zurich at the end of September, and has now announced that it will be running daily weekday flights between the two cities from 13 November.

And it aims to expand its reach across Europe next year.

Surf Air is an American company, which started in 2013 offering flights between San Francisco and Los Angeles and now serves 17 destinations from hubs in California and Texas. People subscribing to its service pay joining and monthly fees, and are then able to fly as often as they like.

The company entered the European market earlier this year, and is based at London Luton Airport. It began by offering leisure flights to Cannes and Ibiza during the summer and added Zurich to the destination list in September, making its maiden flight to the Swiss financial centre on the 25th.

Surf Air Europe CEO Simon Talling-Smith said the flight had gone well. “We had a great maiden flight. There were a lot of people on board, in both directions.”

Surf Air’s “all-you-can-fly” approach had generated a lot of interest in both London and Zurich, he said, among business people who regularly travelled from one to the other. “Both are very significant financial services centres and people travel back and forth between them. We have a number of members already signed up to that route who are commuters between the two cities.”

Having daily services on a business route such as London-Zurich was “pretty essential”, and Surf Air aimed to increase the number of flights to at least two a day over time. It also aimed to start flying to other major European cities, such as Berlin, Barcelona and Munich, next year.

“Surf Air started out doing one flight per day [between San Francisco and Los Angeles] with one plane on that route. Today we fly 15 times a day. We have every confidence that that kind of growth can be repeated in Europe,” said Talling-Smith.

Not even Brexit, and the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU, could knock Surf Air’s European plans off course. Talling-Smith said a new group of “Brexpats” could offer opportunities for both his company and business aviation in general.

“Brexit will likely drive more business to Surf Air,” he said. “We’re already seeing that a number of banks are starting to move jobs from the UK to European cities and I think there’s going to be a rise of a new kind of commuter – people who don’t want to move their families overseas but whose jobs have gone there, so they have to travel regularly between two countries.

“I’m sure there’ll be more business going around [within business aviation generally]. The challenge is can you show a good value proposition – can you make using business aviation more comfortable and more efficient than a commercial flight at a reasonable cost?”