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).
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