Surf Air, The Members-Only Airline, Is Poised For A Growth Spurt

By Andrea Chang
Los Angeles Times.

Pay $1,750 a month. Fly as much as you want. Arrive a few minutes before takeoff. Park for free. Forget TSA security; you don’t even need an ID to board. And then get comfortable — on this fast-rising California airline, every seat is both a window and an aisle.

Since its inaugural flight two years ago, Surf Air has grown to 1,400 members, with plenty more eager to sign up: The waiting list numbers 600.

The original business plan targeted businesspeople traveling between Southern California and Silicon Valley. Now the Santa Monica company is gearing up for a major expansion to four other California markets by October: Santa Rosa, Monterey, Sacramento and Palm Springs.

Surf Air hopes that with its entry into those cities, chosen because they are gateways or popular as weekend getaways, it will evolve from a business airline into one that includes personal lifestyle travel.

At a time when commercial air travel is universally loathed, Surf Air has become a game-changer among entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. About a third of its passengers work in the tech sector; others include lawyers, consultants, real estate agents, sales and advertising reps, entertainment types and retirees.

“I work between Palo Alto and L.A. and it’s awesome. It’s convenient, fast and allows me to be sporadic: I can fly back down tomorrow if I want,” venture capitalist Will Agramonte, 25, said during his weekly Surf Air flight from Hawthorne to San Carlos recently. “I’ve never flown first-class before. I went from coach to this, which is like private.”

The cost isn’t cheap: There’s the monthly cost plus a one-time $1,000 sign-up fee (early subscribers were grandfathered in at lower rates). Members say it’s a fair price to avoid the hassles of commercial airlines and major airports; Surf Air operates 44 flights a day and currently flies into seven small, private airports in locations including Burbank, Santa Barbara, Carlsbad, Oakland and Truckee and does weekend flights to Las Vegas with a partner airline.

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