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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 1:05 am | Fair 48º


All-You-Can-Fly Airline to Touch Down in Santa Barbara This Summer

Santa-Monica based startup Surf Air plans to cater to executive travel through California

A Santa Monica-based startup plans to debut an all-you-can-fly airline this summer that will include service to the Santa Barbara Airport.

Surf Air founder and CEO Wade Eyerly compared the airline’s business model to Netflix, the video/DVD subscription service.

Members will be able to fly unlimited trips to and from Palo Alto, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica on a private, first-class Pilatus eight-seat aircraft.

Surf Air fliers will be able to book a round-trip flight for $790 a month and two round-trip reservations for $990 a month — they can book another flight after they return from their last one.

“Surf Air will allow busy travelers to book a stress-free trip without price-comparison shopping — maybe even an hour before departure,” Eyerly said. “We are fulfilling a real need in the marketplace, a professional and affordable service between very popular regions. Our service can be substantially cheaper than first-class tickets, and we offer a better and less crowded experience.”

Pre-screened passengers will be able to drive right up to the aircraft, where a valet will take their luggage and park their vehicle.

Surf Air is accepting 500 memberships for its first three-month launch servicing the California airports, which it plans to start this summer. It will have two planes ready to go, and will expand to Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas if it’s successful.

The company is focusing on less-congested airports and targeting entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists who travel about five times a month.

“Surf Air eliminates the hassles, cost and wasted time of current travel options by offering its members 30-second booking and cancellations, travel to and from uncongested regional airports and an easy arrive-and-fly process with no hassle, no lines and no extra fees,” according to a company news release.

Initial routes out of the Santa Barbara Airport will include a 30-minute nonstop flight to Los Angeles and a 130-minute flight to Palo Alto with a brief stop in Los Angeles, depending on regulatory approval. Surf Air will offer flexible flight times and routes, Eyerly said.

Eyerly, a former intelligence officer and aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, founded the company with his brother David, a licensed commercial pilot. The entrepreneur grew the company out of MuckerLab, a Los Angeles accelerator that he joined two months ago.

United Airlines offered a flight from Santa Barbara to San Jose until about 10 years ago, when SkyWest filled the void. But SkyWest cut the flight in February 2010 because of low occupancy, according to SBA Assistant Director Hazel Johns.

The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce is pushing to reinstate one 70-person, round-trip flight to San Jose, and the SBA needs to prove that at least 75 percent of those seats will be filled.

“It was a low load factor, in the 30-percent range,” Johns said. “Even though they were charging fairly high fares, they weren’t making enough money, so SkyWest pulled the service, and since then the community has been asking for it to be reinstated. So we’re asking businesses in town to see if there’s support out there.”

Johns is talking with Surf Air later this week, and said she will report back to Noozhawk after their meeting.

Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce President Steve Cushman remembered when a group of business people tried to organize their own service after SkyWest pulled the route.

“They said they would lease a plane, hire pilots and fly to Sacramento and San Jose and charge people a fare,” he said. “Well, it’s not so easy, when you start doing that you get into FAA regulations, and then it gets really complicated in a hurry, and insurance gets expensive.”

If Surf Air can handle the FAA regulations and figure out an effective arrival and departure schedule, the affordable price will appeal to many locals, Cushman said.

People at UCSB and the Goleta tech sector would value a daily flight to San Jose; the area’s economic development depends on convenient transportation, GVCC President and CEO Kristen Miller said.

“We foresee our members forming personal and business bonds on our flights as they experience the benefits of this exclusive travel club,” Eyerly said. “With Surf Air, you can arrive at your aircraft minutes before your flight, receive a warm welcome from the captain and concierge, and then be quickly on your way to your destination in the company of your fellow Surf Air members.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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