California's Surf Air

Offering frequent flyers a quick and convenient way to get around the Golden State



 

Justin Kerr recounted a youth baseball game that he coached this summer, telling how his son’s team, from the San Luis Obispo area of California, had nearly pulled off a huge upset but ended up losing in the final inning. Much as the outcome hurt, Kerr was just happy he could be there. “Those are the moments,” says Kerr, who has two sons, ages 12 and 10, and a 7-year-old daughter. “As parents, that’s what we live for.”

In previous seasons, he couldn’t always make it to his kids’ games. “I used to have to pick the games I was going to miss, and invariably that would be the one where my son would pitch three perfect innings or hit a homerun,” he says. “Now I have the ability to get work done and not miss the games.”

What changed for Kerr, who owns and manages Factor IV Solutions, a food sanitation and safety consultancy located just north of San Luis Obispo, is that he joined Surf Air about a year ago. It’s an all-you-can-fly membership airline headquartered in Santa Monica that serves 12 destinations in California with about 70 flights a day. It recently acquired Rise, a Texas-based all-you-can-fly service, and has begun operating in Europe. 

Surf Air was founded in 2013 and has about 3,000 members in California, where an individual membership fee starts at just under $2,000 a month. Membership allows you to fly an unlimited number of flights aboard a Pilatus PC-12NG on routes like Santa Monica to San Jose and San Carlos to San Diego.

The PC-12NG is a propeller aircraft that carries eight passengers and has a cruising speed of about 320 mph. It’s not nearly as fast as an airliner (or business jet), but often the airports on Surf Air’s routes are more convenient to passengers’ destinations or departure points, and passengers are able to avoid the long TSA lines and other airline-related delays. It takes just minutes for a PC-12NG to taxi and park and for passengers to exit. 

The planes aren’t equipped with Wi-Fi—not yet at least. That may be a problem for some passengers, but not Kerr. “Some people complain about not being connected on the flights,” he says, “but I find the time cathartic. I just plug in the music and listen and do whatever work I’ve downloaded. 

“The PC-12 is a phenomenal plane,” he adds. “I love it. I’ve flown in all kinds of weather. I remember flying over the mountains into Tahoe in a lot of turbulence, but the plane handled it well.”

Though it was initially designed for business travel, Surf Air has added routes to such getaway destinations as Truckee (near Lake Tahoe), Monterey, Napa, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas. Plans call for the addition of weekend flights to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico and Aspen and Vail in Colorado. The company is also looking to expand into Arizona and Washington and to add flights that connect its California network with the Rise network in Texas.

Kerr occasionally takes Surf Air flights to Truckee to visit family in Tahoe, and he and his wife recently flew to Tahoe to celebrate their wedding anniversary, but primarily he uses the airline for business. He frequently flies from Santa Barbara, which is about 90 minutes by car from San Luis Obispo, to San Diego and Oakland. With traffic, it would take him about 10 hours to drive to each city from his home and back. 

“I’d be driving all day and have no ability to make money,” says Kerr, who’s 41 and started his company about five years ago. “[Surf Air] has allowed me to be in a lot of places when I need to be there as I’m growing my business. Business travel that would normally be grinding is now pleasurable.” 

For more information, visit surfair.com

 

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