By Alistair Smout
LONDON Feb 23 U.S. subscription-based airline
Surf Air will launch in Europe in May, targeting people who fly
business class in a potential challenge to the continent's
Surf Air Europe will start connecting London to Zurich
during the week and Ibiza in Spain at weekends, operating a
subscription model where customers pay a 1,750 pound ($2,180)
monthly fee for unlimited travel.
It will later add routes to Cannes, Munich and Milan, Surf
Air Europe Chief Executive Simon Talling-Smith said.
The London-headquartered airline will try to better what its
sister company, Surf Air, has done in California. Launched three
years ago, that company now has 3,000 members.
Surf Air has ordered 45 Swiss-made Pilatus
eight-seat jets ahead of the launch and a similar-sized order of
Embraer planes to serve longer routes will be placed
later this year.
Across U.S. and European operations, Surf Air expects to
achieve $10 million in revenue for 2017.
Talling-Smith said the smaller planes and private terminals
that Surf Air uses cut the waiting times associated with flying
by commercial airlines.
"You have this great thirst in the market for something
that's going to be able to cut out all of that wasted time, and
Surf Air is the answer to that," Talling-Smith told Reuters.
The new service could appeal to some of the most lucrative
customers for British Airways and Swiss International
Air Lines: people who tend to fly business class and pay more
for flexible tickets.
The 1,750 pound monthly fee compares with a last minute,
flexible business class return between London and Zurich of
about 500 pounds.
At the other end of the scale, Lufthansa's
low-cost division Eurowings started testing a subscription model
called Flightpass this month. Passengers pay for 10 one-way
flights, starting with packages restricted to certain routes
from 499 euros ($526).
But with an eye to the lucrative business market, Eurowings
is also offering a Flightpass package for business passengers
who want more flexibility, starting from 1,499 euros for a 10
Surf Air has partnered with tech firm Zuora to manage the
subscription service for its European launch. It was due to be
take place in October last year, but was postponed after Surf
Air said it needed to secure the right aircraft deal.
($1 = 0.8027 pounds)
($1 = 0.9482 euros)
(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan; editing by Susan
Thomas and David Clarke)