All-you-can-fly airline offers flat fee

Netflix of the skies? Surf Air, a California startup, will give customers unlimited access for one price.

By Kim Peterson Jun 12, 2013 3:02PM
A California airline hopes people are so fed up with the current state of air travel that its subscription-based business will be a hit.

Surf Air launched daily flights Wednesday between the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, giving members unlimited access to its six-seat propeller planes. The cost: $1,650 a month.
Right now, Surf Air is flying only between Burbank and San Carlos instead of directly into Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company plans to add service to Santa Barbara on July 10 and wants to expand into Sacramento, Palm Springs and other California cities later -- and eventually nationwide.

Is $1,650 a month -- plus a $500 one-time initiation fee -- worth it? Surf Air is promising no lines, no waiting, 30-second booking and no fees for luggage, snacks or beverages. It uses small regional airports where parking and security lines are less of a hassle.Image: Airline (© Comstock Images/Jupiterimages)

The airline might be attractive to executives who would normally charter a plane. The Huffington Post reports that one private plane company, Marquis Jet, charges customers $119,000 for at least 25 hours of flight time. Surf Air asks members to commit for three months and then gives them the option of paying month by month.

"We are to air travel what Netflix (NFLX) was to movies or what a country club is to a golf course," CEO Wade Eyerly tells CNBC in this video. "If you're going back and forth three, four times a month, this is an amazing deal. Not only on price but more specifically on the time that you're going to save."

Not everyone is a fan. When CNBC asked Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines, about the idea, here's what he said: "This is a tough, tough investment, very very highly speculative. . . . I wouldn't put my pension in the idea, but maybe some other people have more tolerance for risk than I do."

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27Comments
Jun 12, 2013 4:56PM
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This is a great idea!  Like having your own private jet.  If you have the money, why not?  Less hassle and convenient. 
Jun 12, 2013 5:35PM
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Pssst MSN, the plane in the picture is definitely NOT the 6 seat propeller driven aircraft that you will be riding in!!
Jun 12, 2013 5:12PM
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I hate to say this - but, if you want decent service, you must fly a foreign airlines (except Aeroflot).
Jun 12, 2013 5:05PM
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If it's a great deal, there will be long lines and waiting.  Supply and demand!  Also, they will have to limit luggage or people will drag everything they own on board.
Jun 12, 2013 5:32PM
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It might not be that good of a deal. It depends on where you need to be. For example you can commute round trip from LAX to SFO on Southwest everyday for a month for $5350. It is more than $1650 but they want 3 months up front and a one time $500 fee to start. You may have additional car rental fees or a longer cab ride than if you went directly from LAX to SFO. Additionally, you will be in a prop plane traveling slower and more inclined to be affected by the weather as opposed to a full size jet. Then there is carry on space to consider... Just sayin' there is already something pretty close to that and if you make less than 10 trips then you are better off on Southwest..
Jun 12, 2013 6:02PM
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Other bigger airlines have tried the same thing with bigger aircrafts and stopped it because they lost too much money.  At least that is what they said.
Jun 12, 2013 8:30PM
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Actually, Air carriers have had a similar concept for many years starting way back in the early '80's when they offered bulk ticket purchases at a fraction what a single seat price would total to. Aloha Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines offered bulk ticket purchases on inter-island air travel between the islands. The time factor between gate arrivals may seem  to be a plus. Unfortunately, with security risks in aviation, the TSA and the FAA will have to adjust this airlines operations specifications and the present laws to accommodate this type of speed-through-check point air travel. Operating as a commercial air carrier or charter airline always seems appealing to the consumer when an attractive gimmick sells, but the hype is always momentary as the air carrier attempts to woo the consumer market for start-up investment capital as well as the required funds needed to sustain operating within the requirements of the commercial aviation laws and it's limitations. What seems to be an attractive offer will always have a set-back. If the traveler must travel to and from in such a fashion that requires that much air travel it may be good idea as it stands for now, but given the current economic situation this country is in, inflation and common sense are lacking. Any financial genius or die-hard accounting person will tell you to seek temporary domicile where ever your business may have to take you and save your money. The idea is still extravagant as fractional ownership. The gimmick used to woo the consumer market only seems attractive. You can run the numbers seven different ways from Sunday and in the end the consumer will still always pay for it. The airline can work, most definitely, but the so-called value added incentive is miniscule compared to good old fashion common sense and the practical conservative approach to air travel to and from regional airports or even non-towered airports any where in the United States. Regional air carriers were started on the same premise and flourished into the modern day head ache we now see. I say if your up to it, go ahead. Take your chances with smaller aircraft, limited baggage check-ins, door to door drop-offs into smaller airports, All you can fly on that price tag sounds great, but frequency in the air means frequent aircraft safety checks, engine TBO's, and maintenance safety risks will incur as they will try to meet their turn-around times as they do with any air carrier operation. It's all about the risk. The former Continental CEO was correct in his statement and though the $1,650 a month -- plus a $500 one-time initiation fee seems lovely, I highly advise- user beware. PT Barnum was correct, and I highly question the mentality of the  investors who put their money into the concept without evaluating the risk equation.
Jun 12, 2013 7:14PM
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Others should jump on board!  I'll pay $4,000 for all the trips I could do between Chicago and Tampa for the year!
Jun 12, 2013 5:28PM
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So they think there will be no lines?  How many people do they think they can pack in a 6 seat plane? Where are they going to put all the luggage when people have 4 and 5 bags each?  The planes can only carry so much weight which includes passengers, fuel, luggage, etc..  Sounds like a disaster just waiting to happen.
Jun 12, 2013 8:33PM
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If a lot of people take them up on it than how can they guarantee that a seat will be available exactly when you need it?   And if they can't guarantee it then 'unlimited flying' has no meaning.
Jun 12, 2013 6:07PM
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Geez. Get this airline in Juneau, Alaska! We pay astrononmical air fares here.
Jun 12, 2013 6:28PM
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This is a good deal for business people who travel a lot, for other travelers who want to I think its a  bargain, especially when you get to fly as much as you want if you add up a regular price for a ticket its probably cheaper this way especially if a few people share the cost, they said you have to commit for 3 months and then its month to month so that's not bad and you get more room all you can eat, and its affordable as long as its a big plane and the pilots are experienced I would try it if they expand.
Jun 15, 2013 3:05PM
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its all about choice, this will definitely work for a lot of people 
Jun 12, 2013 8:39PM
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Too bad it isn't for common folk! You need to be a rich b-tch to afford it!
Jun 12, 2013 4:00PM
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Better option is high-speed rail.  Talk to your lawmakers about implementing it in your state.
Jun 12, 2013 4:54PM
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This will mean "more is better", which it is not in this case.  Maybe someone makes two trips/month and now because of the "bargain" start to travel one extra time. It will become like that boat or summer cottage...have to use it....have to use it....fly more...fly more. Stupid humans. Why not put money into a cleaner transportation option, like high speed trains. The rest of the developed world has it already. USA is still in the drunken oil era, polluting and wasting.
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