New Pilots

Surf Air To Launch In European Market

2016 07 08

Europe's traditional airlines, already challenged by budget rivals, could face a new threat at the business class end of the market later this year when Surf Air Europe starts flying.

Venture capital-backed Surf Air Europe will start connecting London to Geneva, Zurich and Cannes from October, operating a subscription-model where customers pay a GBP£2,500 (USD$3,250) monthly fee for unlimited travel.

Although small - the airline will initially fly three eight-seater aircraft - the new service could take some of British Airways' and Swiss International Air Lines' most lucrative customers: those who tend to fly business class and pay extra for flexible tickets.

Surf Air Europe, headquartered in London, will try to imitate what its sister company, Surf Air, has done in California. Launched three years ago, that company now has 3,000 members and is due to start making a profit in the next quarter.

In California, about 85 percent of Surf Air members previously flew on commercial airlines commuting between cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, the chief executive of Surf Air Europe told Reuters news agency.

"Typically our members would expect to join and fly every week," said Simon Talling-Smith, a former British Airways and Travelzoo executive.

The attraction for members is that Surf Air will fly from private terminals, meaning passengers do not have to spend so much time in the airport. In London, it will fly from Luton Airport, 35 miles from the capital.

"We give frequent travellers back a lot of time," Talling-Smith said. "They can show up at one of our terminals only 15 minutes before the flight."

The GBP£2,500 monthly fee compares with a last minute, flexible business class ticket between London and Zurich for about GBP£500.


The start-up is in the process of raising about GBP£10 million from venture capital backers including US-based Anthem and IVP. Later this month, Surf Air Europe will then choose between the Bombardier Learjet and Citation CJ4, planning to lease an initial three planes, with three to follow next year.

Surf Air Europe said Britain's vote last month to leave the European Union would not impact its plans.

"We don't think there'll be a major effect," Talling-Smith said.


Surf Air

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