FlyORH: A Conversation With Wade Eyerly, Former CEO of Surf Air
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Over the next few days, it was revealed that Surf Air was expanding from Burbank Bob Hope Airport with flights to Las Vegas and Truckee. More surprisingly, I found out online that Wade was stepping down as CEO. Here is my interview with my closing thoughts at the end.
This week I would like to introduce you to Surf Air. This airline is neither a commercial airline (like JetBlue) or air tax service (like Linear Air), but an all-you-can-fly model for dues-paying members. Please note that I actually never got a chance to talk to Wade, but that these answers were provided through their marketing department prior to his departure.
BR: I am very familiar with air tax service as exemplified by Linear Air, but not with the all-you-can-fly model. Has anyone ever tried this before?
WE: We are the first All-You-Can-Fly membership airline. What we’re doing has never been done before.
BR: How many flights per day and how many destinations?
WE: Right now there are 18 flights per day to three different destinations per day.
BR: How many members do you have to date pay $1,350 per month?
WE: 434 members.
BR: Who has invested in Surf Air?
WE: Our series B round of funding was led by Velos Partners and Base Ventures. Additional investors include Anthem Venture Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Structure Capital, actor Jared Leto, TriplePoint Capital, Siemer Ventures, Baroda Ventures, Gilad and Eytan Elbaz, Rick Caruso, Jeffrey Stibel and Jonathan Schreiber.
WE: We have plans to expand nationwide, and the East Coast is definitely on our radar. The unique thing about being membership-based is that we can let the demand tell us where to go.
BR: Is there a limit as to how many flights a member can take per month?
WE: No. When we say All-You-Can-Fly, we mean it.
BR: The Phil Lebeau idea on your first flight was a great idea—how did you pull that off?
WE: The media has been very kind to us and interested to cover our journey.
BR: What kind of planes and how many?
W: We currently own three Pilatus PC-12s.
BR: Do the flights ever fill up and members not able to get a seat?
WE: Some flights become full, but our members can see that and can choose from up to 18 daily flights in their Member Portal. We also have a waitlist feature.
- My first thoughts were that if all was going well the CEO would not be stepping down. Then I looked at who was replacing him—Jeff Potter—and what he did at Frontier Airlines. Very impressive! Actually, Frontier is one of the airlines that I thought should have been taking a closer look at ORH.
- I can see how something like this could work, but it would have to be on well traveled routes like Boston to New York.
- You can’t have unlimited. I understand how All-You-Can-Fly (unlimited) is at the core of the business model, like Netfix, but I think eventually they will need to put a limit on how many flights you can have each month.
Surf Air is still early in their development, but overall based on what I have seen and heard, we need to keep an eye on Surf Air and follow them on Twitter. In closing, I would like to thank Wade for his time and good luck with his future endeavors.
Bill Randell is the President of Advantage Benefits, an insurance brokerage house specializing in employee benefits with an emphasis on health insurance, based in Worcester since 1992. He can be contacted at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter (@FlyORH).
Related Slideshow: 10 Historically Bold Moves Made By Big Companies
10. RJ Reynolds
The Smokeless Cigarette
In 1988, long after the American public wised up to the dangers of cigarettes, RJ Reynolds launched the Premier cigarette. They called it a “smokeless nicotine delivery mechanism that looks and feels like a premium cigarette.” It didn't. Smokers said it tasted like charcoal, and drug users quickly figured out how to use it to smoke crack. It has been reported that RJ Reynolds lost $1 billion on the product.
The alleged lobster roll – no one's sure there was ever any real lobster in there – from McDonald's was about as successful in New England as their McCrabcake was in Maryland. It looked bad, tasted worse, and was shunned by even the most die hard Golden Arches fans. (Unlike the McRib, which continues to have a bewildering trance on McDonald's fans.) The sandwich is still available in some Canadian franchises and occasionally in Maine.
Bans Employees From Working at Home
When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer became the company’s chief executive, she instated Google-like food options, offered new benefits, and insisted full-time employees work in the office. The tech world was shocked, and Mayer admitted the mandate could diminish productivity. However, she saw an up side.
Sony was right to support Blu-ray over the failed HD DVD, probably because they learned their lesson with the Betamax experience in 1975. That's the year the Betamax video recorder hit stores shelves. A year later, the VHS format hit the market. Sony never licensed its Betamax technology, and the two formats were not compatible. Consumers had to choose between the two. You know how that story ended.
Enters the Auto Market with High End Electric
Fires Steve Jobs
One of the world's most famous college drop outs, Steve Jobs founded Apple, helped it grow into a billion-plus public company, and launched the Macintosh. He was also ousted by Apple's Board of Directors in 1985. The popular take is that the board was stupid to fire Jobs as the leader of the Mac division, because Apple would have more quickly become the company it is today. A new take on the decision posits that the then-30-year old Jobs was disruptive and incompetent in that role. After 12 years away from the company he founded, he learned the skills and discipline required for Apple's rebirth.
Takes on Sony + Nintendo in the Console Gaming Market
Microsoft has one person to thank for its console gaming success, and that person isn't even real. Master Chief is the hero of the insanely popular "Halo" franchise, which was first released was a launch title with the original Xbox. The game revolutionized First Person Shooters on consoles, and sold millions of consoles along the way. At the time, Microsoft was known as primarily a software company. They may have took a bath on those early consoles, but they now join Sony as one of the two major console makers left standing. (Sorry, Nintendo. The Wii U is going to sink you.)
Changes Pricing Plan
Netflix is back on top now, but it almost went under in 2011 when it mishandled its pricing changes and attempted to slice off it DVD business under the name Qwikster. As they did with the New Coke launch, customers responded with immediate anger, leading Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to apologize. The company reverted to its $7.99 streaming plan and has never looked back.
Opts out of Government Loans
After Detroit’s automakers went to Washington in 2008 asking for emergency loans to keep their enterprises afloat, the big bus oval was the only one to opt out of the bailout. Ford decided to mortgage all of its assets to raise operating funds instead. Taxpayers eventually spent $80 billion to rescue General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. Ford focused on efficiency and increasing sales without using government bailout money - thus avoiding the federal tinkering that Chrysler and GM had to accept as a part of their deals. The company has since kept pace with GM, the country's largest automaker.
Perhaps the most famous brand misstep since Ford's Edsel, New Coke is the Titanic of corporate miscalculation. In the 1970s and early 80s, the soft drink giant faced increased competition from Pepsi and other products. To stay on top, Coke executives stopped production of the classic formula and introduced New Coke with tremendous fanfare. The public's responded with immediate outrage. Coca-Cola re-launched its original formula – called Coc-Cola Classic – almost immediately. Today, unopened cans of New Coke go for hundreds on eBay.
- FlyORH: The Secret to JetBlue Staying in Worcester
- FlyORH’s People On The Ground: Thrifty’s Ed Bresnahan
- FlyORH: JetBlue Service Report Card
- FlyORH: Troubleshooting at Worcester Airport
- FlyORH: Add Worcester to the Logan Express Route
- FlyORH: JetBlue’s 50-Flight Milestone at Worcester Regional Airport
- FlyORH: What Worcester’s Airport Can Learn From Arnold Palmer
- FlyORH: Before Worcester Airport Access Road, Let’s Fix The Signs
- FlyORH: Linear Air CEO William Herp Talks Air Taxis
- FlyORH: Worcester Airport Does Not Need an Access Road
- FlyORH: Chamber of Commerce Works To Promote Worcester Airport
- FlyORH: November 7 Is JetBlue Go Time
- FlyORH: Worcester Airport Rises to the Occasion
- FlyORH: First JetBlue Flight Out of Worcester
- FlyORH: Predictions For Worcester Airport in 2014
- FlyORH: Worcester Airport by the Numbers
- FlyORH: Growing With JetBlue
- FlyORH: Setting the Record Straight On Worcester Regional Airport
- FlyORH: Worcester’s Airport Needs To Provide Ground Transportation
- FlyORH: JetBlue Arrives At Worcester Regional Airport
- FlyORH: Spotlight Worcester’s Attractions In Our Airport
- FlyORH: Yapta Your Flights Out of Worcester Airport
- FlyORH: JetBlue Is Thinking Long-Term for ORH
- FlyORH: The Next Moves For Worcester Airport