Netflix. Spotify. Hello Fresh. What do these companies have in common? They provide a service you need (or at least, use) every day. One Californian airline, however, is testing the “subscription model” waters (airspace?), by flogging “all you can fly” memberships for $2,950 a month.
The company started in 2013, but as any start up knows, it takes a while to get the ball rolling (and the propellers spinning). Which is why they only managed to expand their operations beyond the US in July 2017, and why earlier this year they were pleased to announce they would be adding 10 new routes to their European operation.
So how do they justify the price tag? After all, even the most frequent flyers don’t fly every day. Well, as one journalist at The Economist points out, Surf Air haven’t just improved the pre-flight experience; they’ve essentially removed it (being a private airline, it does not require passengers to go through the full check-in, security, and boarding process).
“London’s Luton airport is not renowned for its quick boarding. But now it is possible to show up there and in 15 minutes be on a plane bound for Zurich.”
“Surf Air claims to be the world’s first all-you-can-fly airline,” The Economist correspondent continues, “For a monthly fee, members can travel on as many flights as they want among the airline’s growing list of destinations.”
Surf Air currently offers flights between 11 different destinations in California, as well as (separately) between London, Cannes, Ibiza and Zurich. In addition, LA Biz reported earlier this year that 20 new destinations (other sources claimed 10), including Milan, Munich, Luxembourg, Brussels, Vienna, Geneva, Basel and Nice are soon to be added, thanks to a JetClass partnership.
As it stands, Surf Air offer three tiers of membership to their American network, starting out at US$208 a month for an ‘a la carte’ subscription (which allows subscribers access to any flight, at any time, for a flat rate of US$445), US$1,950 a month for an ‘all you can fly’ subscription, which gives subscribers access to an unlimited number of flights (at no extra cost), and US$5,000 a month for a group subscription, which gives companies and families monthly recurring packs of 10 flights, available to be shared among an unlimited number of fliers.
In Europe, until the full spectrum of destinations is available, the pricing is a little different, working out to be $4,155 per month for unlimited flights, or about $2,000 to fly only on routes under 600km. In Australia, unfortunately, they are yet to expand.
In terms of its target market, many of its customers are business travellers who fly two or three times a month, Angela Vargo, Surf Air’s director of communications, last year told The Economist. And although some of these customers are corporations (with ‘group’ memberships), most, she said, are individuals, such as entrepreneurs and consultants, “Who cherish the extra hours they gain.”
Surf Air aren’t the first to introduce a scheme like this (many airlines have tried, and failed with such an approach). But with the spread of “digital nomads,” and an increasing acceptance of subscription based models for practically every other product we consume, whether or not it works out for Surf Air, we reckon there is a future in ‘all you can fly’ airlines.