Surf Air, which has been compared to Netflix for its monthly membership and Uber for its ease of booking, makes private flying feasible for those of us without a mogul-sized salary. Read about our first trip on the trend-setting airline and see where we’d fly next…
I have never been early for anything in my life – I’m very much a made-it-by-a-minute kind of girl (twice I have arrived at weddings to see the bride already mid-march down the aisle). So imagine my surprise to show up for my first Surf Air flight 60 minutes before takeoff (like a well-behaved traveller) and find that not only am I early, I’m the first passenger there.
With Surf Air there are no check-in lines, no security queues, not a bin for your laptop nor a TSA agent in sight. There aren’t even tickets. That’s because this is private air travel. Arrive minutes before your flight and a Surf Air concierge will simply grab your bag and walk you to your plane – they’ll even offer you a Perrier and a snack for the 30-second stroll. For a monthly fee starting from $1,750 you get unlimited air travel between the airline’s destinations, most of which are in California.
On my flight, which is a quick 45-minute hop from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, I’m joined by two other members – both youngish men who look like they could fit the Silicon Valley mold. I had heard that a number of members are techie types that jump between Southern California and San Francisco, though these two look like they’re off to Santa Barbara for some R&R. The Surf Air pros that they are, they both arrive only 15 minutes before our scheduled departure. They also both know to dip their heads slightly when boarding the plane. I on the other hand – a private plane novice – make an entrance by cracking my cranium so hard against the entryway that even the pilot spins around to ask if I’m okay. I am and I try to salvage what’s left of my cool factor by making a joke about feeling like an NBA player though I’m only 5’7″. One techie laughs and I already feel like the day’s a success.
I then ease into my oversized leather seat and it’s smooth flying all the way to Santa Barbara. Once we land, there’s another concierge to greet us on the tarmac, walk us to the terminal and hand us our bags. Within five minutes I’m in my car and I realize I really do feel like an all-important NBA player… or the fifth Beatle… or at least a Silicon Valley superstar.
Since that day, I’ve combed through Surf Air’s destinations and commenced daydreaming of future trips. And because I can’t get enough of that private-style treatment, I’ve matched a few of those destinations with Smith stays that have similarly exclusive perks. Take a peek…
DESTINATION: CARLSBAD/SAN DIEGO COUNTY
WHERE TO STAY: Rancho Valencia
PRIVATE PERKS: Visualize your backhand on your private flight (true, there may be a few other members on the plane), then get down to work in a one-on-one tennis lesson with a pro at this racquet-friendly resort in Northern San Diego County.
DESTINATION: SANTA BARBARA
WHERE TO STAY: Belmond El Encanto
PRIVATE PERKS: The hotel sits on seven secluded acres and each of it’s bungalows has loads of private appeal. But for some real alone time, head to the spa. The organic sugar scrubs there are as life altering as air travel free of security lines.
DESTINATION: NAPA VALLEY
WHERE TO STAY: The Carneros Inn
PRIVATE PERKS: Is there a better place to sip Napa’s cabs and chardonnays than in your private cottage garden at the Carneros Inn? The hotel’s palatial heated pool is a close second.