Surf Air is announcing 10 new routes next week, including flights to Milan, Munich, Luxembourg, Brussels, Vienna, Geneva, Nice, Basel and Brussels.
After nine months of seemingly being stuck in neutral, it turns out Surf Air Europe is going to significantly expand its flying there. In terms of keeping track of what’s happening, it has been a winding road for us. A few weeks ago we heard that Surf Air had laid off some of their sales, marketing and support team. Operations, which are contracted out to Flexjet Ltd., were apparently not impacted, however, it did cause us to take a step back and wonder what was going on.
The history of private aviation by the seat concepts has been spotty. Surf Air in the U.S. has built what seems to be a solid base in California and last year expanded into Texas by buying RISE. Also last year it contracted its U.S. flight operations to a third party. In private aviation, it’s not an unusual arrangement. Wheels Up, for example, which owns its fleet, contracts with GAMA Aviation to actually do the flying. VistaJet uses Jet Aviation to manage and operate its N (U.S.) registered airplanes.
In terms of by the seat concepts, Beacon, BlackJet, DayJet and Pogo are among the players that closed or in the case of the latter didn’t get off the ground. At the same time, JetSuiteX says its offering has been a success while JetClass in Europe says it is expanding and seeing traction with consumers. JetSmarter, which offers by the seat private flying in the U.S., Europe and with routes to the Middle East, claims to have a billion-dollar valuation, although it is privately held.
Surf Air in Europe started flying in Europe from London to Ibiza and Cannes last summer, then switched to a London – Zurich route in the fall, adding Swiss ski spot Sion from London for the winter. It also switched London flights from Luton to London City Airport, which is convenient to many bank and finance offices.
Earlier today we noticed Surf Air had updated its website to say it was now serving 10 cities in Europe and had added a number of routes without schedules on its flight search functions.
We’ve now had confirmation from its CEO Simon Talling-Smith that good news is in the offing. He tells us next week Surf Air will announce the following routes:
In terms of the new routings, several such as Milan – Geneva, Milan – Nice and Milan – Basel don’t include any scheduled commercial flights, meaning the Surf Air proposition will be particularly strong as its competition will be connections, trains and driving, a formula that has worked well in California. Like with commercial scheduled flights, you fly with strangers and you fly on a published scheduled, but you save time by using private jet facilities at the airport. On flights where the actual time wheels up to touchdown is 45 to 90 minutes, the by the seat private aviation model can cut airport to airport travel time in half.
While Surf Air’s Zurich – LCY route connected two of the easiest airports in Europe to use, coming to Milan bypasses having to arrive or depart via the commercial terminals at Linate or Malpensa, two truly awful airport experiences. At the same time, its stepped-up schedule at Zurich is interesting. Routes from Zurich to Brussels, Vienna and Munich put Surf Air head-to-head with flights connecting the hubs of Lufthansa Group airlines Swiss, Brussels Airlines, Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa.
Last year Surf Air offered top-tier frequent fliers free flights to test its service. No word if that will be repeated. More details to come when the official news is released next week.