One of the state’s newest air travel experiments is eyeing the Palm Springs area as a future destination.
Surf Airlines Inc., a Santa Monica based company that flies passengers — which it refers to as “members” — for a set monthly rate, currently runs service between Burbank and San Carlos in the Bay Area.
Members pay a fee of $1,650 a month, and can fly as often as they wish. (The company also has a one-time $500 initiation fee.) There is no charge for baggage, snacks or beverages. Passengers can bring up to 35 pounds of luggage.
Surf Air is only five days into service, but plans to add Santa Barbara to its route schedule on July 10 and add Palm Springs some time after the New Year, said Wade Eyerly, CEO for Surf Airlines. There is no word yet on whether the airline would fly into Palm Springs International Airport or the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport, a small private field in Thermal.
“We know that Palm Springs is a destination that we’d like to get to, and that’s really as much as we know about it,” said Eyerly. It’s also not clear what the route schedule would look like, though Eyerly anticipates flying “a full schedule,” which means about eight flights a day.
Other cities Surf Air wants to expand into are: Monterey, San Diego, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and the Sonoma/ Napa area as well as other markets nationwide.
Palm Springs offers a good opportunity to tap into the substantial second-home market in the area as a number of part-time residents here have full-time lives in places like Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco.
“There are lots of people who want to spend time out there in Palm Springs, but live in L.A. or San Diego or other parts of the state and are interested in moving back and forth,” said Eyerly. “The biggest challenge with a second home is frequency of access, how often you get to see it. We can increase the value of those assets for people by giving them more frequent access.”
Surf Air flies six-passenger Pilatus planes with a luxury BMW-designed interior. And because these are regarded as private air travel in the eyes of the Transportation Safety Administration, passengers are not required to arrive a couple hours early at the airport and do not undergo security screening, allowing them to arrive only minutes before the flight departs.
“It’s sort of that hybrid-private model,” Eyerly explained. “If you fly private, you don’t go through TSA. The same thing holds true here.”
The wait-list for new members has already ballooned to more than 1,000 with the response so far a strong thumbs-up.
We’re five days into operating, and it’s been fantastic,” Eyerly said Monday afternoon. “We have a lot of passengers flying us, and they seem to be really positive about the experience and we’re happy to be flying them.”