Setting up shop in Europe seems to be a pretty big trend for US operators right now. Wheels Up, who announced their intentions last year, were followed a few months back by Flexjet.
Wheels Up are already in the process of building up a European team, whilst Flexjet said they will have a small fleet of aircraft in place before the end of the year.
They will be joined, maybe even beaten, by Surf Air. The Californian PC-12 operator is planning to start operations from London in October.
All three have different business models. Flexjet operates fractional ownership and jet card schemes (although they say they haven’t decided what they will offer in Europe) . Wheels Up offers a membership scheme where clients pay an annual fee and then per hour flight costs every time they fly. And Surf Air offers an all-you-can-eat membership scheme where for a monthly fee, you can fly as much as you want.
Is Europe ready for Surf Air? The company’s CEO Simon Talling-Smith thinks so, saying that the company’s 3,000+ members enjoy the predictability and value of paying a monthly fee for unlimited flying.
The company will begin by flying from London’s Luton Airport to Zurich, Geneva and Cannes initially. But Surf Air won’t be using PC-12s, they say the turboprop is perfect for small hops in California, but the distances they will be flying in Europe will be longer.
So the company is looking at light jets, saying that they are in advanced negotiations with three manufacturers for an extensive four year order book. The aim is to have 12 aircraft, all operated by TAG, in situ by the end of the first year of operations. Paris is currently the front runner for a secondary base.
The beauty of Surf Air, says Talling-Smith, is that its members decide what routes the company will fly. If they receive enough interest in flying a route that can be made profitable then they will look at operating it.
Europe is a tough market to make money in right now, but it is going to be hard to bet against Surf Air.
After all, who wouldn’t want to pay a fixed monthly fee to fly as many times they want on a route they fly all of the time?