The Santa Monica-based operator is now plotting to expand in order to cater for the booming demand for its all-you-can-fly, single-engined turboprop-based scheduled service.
Surf Air launched around two years ago, offering its members unlimited flights on its fleet of three pre-owned PC-12s for a monthly fee – currently $1,750.
“We now fly to seven destinations within California with a fleet of seven PC-12s, including four new eight-seat NG models,” says Surf Air chief executive Jeff Potter.
“We have brought the benefits of private aviation to a much broader audience and the reception has been overwhelming,” he says. “In the last year our membership has grown from 300 to over 1,200, and we expect the numbers to grow to 5,000 by the end of 2015.”
The high take-up rate for the service persuaded Surf Air last August to place an order for 15 PC-12 NGs and options for another 50. “We expect to take another eight aircraft this year and a dozen in 2016, which will help to support our expansion,” says Potter, who was formerly chief executive of US low-cost regional carrier Frontier Airlines and members-only VIP travel club Exclusive Resorts.
Surf Air, he explains, has secured an agreement with Pilatus whereby the Swiss airframer will not sell new NGs to any US operator with a similar programme for five years. “We will retain this exclusivity as long as we exercise 12 options a year. Based on the demand for the service so far, this is not a problem,” says Potter.
The company is planning to expand its coverage across the USA, starting at the end of the year with a Texas-based service. Operations in Florida and the northeast are also mooted.
“If we continue to grow at the current rate, we will have to order more aircraft,” Potter says.
Surf Air is sticking with the PC-12 NG. “We made a resounding decision from the start to go with Pilatus,” he says. “With its short field capability, low operating costs and large cabin, this aircraft is ideal for this type of service.”
Surf Air has a typical load factor of around 60% per flight. “In order to enhance the customer experience we try to limit the number of passengers to five,” says Potter.
(Kate Sarsfield - Flightglobal News)