How Hospitality Went Missing in Air Travel, and How We Brought it Back

If you’ve ever missed a flight, lost luggage, or needed a bag of peanuts, you’ve likely been on the receiving end of an un-sympathetic airline employee. They deal with hundreds, if not thousands of the same complaints daily. Just take a glance around when you arrive at a commercial airport. It’s likely you’ll see swarms of people, some who understand how air travel works, many who don’t. For the staff, and even your seatmates, the overall attitude is: get in line.

Though we couldn’t blame them (nature of the beast), we yearned for something better. As frequent flyers and entrepreneurs within the communication, aviation, hospitality, and service industries. We saw that the world was begging for some relief when it came to flying. On top of that, the industry has become antiquated, above and below wing, and stagnant in technological advancement. From booking, to boarding, to the fees and complex passenger hierarchies — everyone agreed, it was time to dust off air travel and start anew.

Our idea: distill it down. Keep what we liked (the speed at which you could go from A to B), ditch what we didn’t (bad tech, bad service, long lines), and the most important thing, infuse genuine hospitality into the overall experience.


We Made It an Experience Worth Sharing

When was the last time you couldn’t wait to tell your friends or family how great your commercial flight was? At best, it’s a tolerable journey, followed by relief to be done with it.

Instead of doing the bare minimum, we looked at ways that we could create a memorable and share-worthy exchange with travelers at every touchpoint. Technology helped. Our app makes booking or shifting travel plans mid-stream incredibly easy. But even more than that were the people interacting with our members. We recruit and train from a hospitality point of view: How can we help? How can we go above and beyond? How can we constantly improve on the member experience?

A JD Power study from a couple years ago goes to show that for those who select an airline because of reputation, 54% indicate they’ll definitely fly with them again and 65% say they’ll definitely recommend that airline to a friend or family member. Same goes for those who choose an air travel service based on customer service (54% will fly again, 66% will recommend).

And when you see the same people day in and day out, caring for your regulars becomes second nature.

We Made Flying Personable

It’s that secret sauce that comes with “disrupting” an industry. For us, it was creating a level of personability afforded by our membership-based model, and by flying in and out of private terminals. The behemoths can’t compete. Ever ask a gate clerk at LAX to run to the store to grab your favorite beer? Didn’t think so.

On the contrary, our team has done that for Surf Air Members more than once — among other things like dropping off forgotten bags or turning on the seat warmers in their car for when they land. We know our Members; we see many of them every day. So we know what they like, what they drink, where they vacation, when their kids’ birthdays are. In short: we have a relationship with them.

Our director of ground experience, Richard Taylor, said it to me best, “Because we’re able to do things differently than a commercial airline, we’re going to do things differently, and that’s what our members truly appreciate about our service.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Oftentimes, we do feel like the Field of Dreams when it comes to air travel. On top of the personability, flexibility, and all the benefits of seamless, smooth, and time-saving air travel are the Surf Air Members themselves. They feel invested in protecting and nurturing this amazing thing we’ve created together. They know how much it’s changed their lives, and they don’t want to go back to commercial!

Everything from the type of wine we serve, to the way our flight concierge talk to our Members, to how the planes are outfitted speaks to a specific type of audience. We end up attracting like-minded frequent flyers, and they tell their friends. That in of itself becomes another added bonus of membership. Members are friends, colleagues, future business partners. With every flight, there’s an opportunity to make a real and lasting connection. It’s a tight knit community — and that’s what continues to carry us forward.