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Surf Air: Unlimited Flights for $1k/mo (surfair.com)
216 points by callmeed 1707 days ago | hide | past | web | 175 comments | favorite

Whatever the commercial viability of this particular idea, I hope that pressure from such ventures, whether delusional or otherwise, can inspire greater democratisation and fare transparency in air travel. For instance, I would be willing to pay an airline some amount of monthly recurring fees (though perhaps not $1k) to option certain seats on a large selection of flights at low prices. The monthly recurring revenue could, in theory, offset the impact of my unpredictability as a passenger on booking calculations.

Edit: On the other hand, I'd much rather the money go into some sort of vaguely 21st century high-speed rail infrastructure, particularly for short to medium inter-city trips. The absence of such makes us the laughingstock of Europe and Asia.

> I'd much rather the money go into some sort of vaguely 21st century high-speed rail infrastructure, particularly for short to medium inter-city trips.

Yikes! No! This is a complete waste of money. Our cities are just not built to make use of something like this. The various stake holders (environmental groups, politicians, industry, unions, etc.) all but make sure that these projects will cost ten times more than they should and end-up in exactly the wrong places. And, because of this, not enough people will use them.

Take the proposal that was floating around a while ago (maybe still is) to build a high-speed rail connection between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Maybe it is a good idea, I don't know. Here's the problem. The start point in LA is Central Station. That's Downtown Los Angeles. In other words, an hour to two hours away from this great mass of people living in the area. That is, if you even want to consider going Downtown (it ain't like Downtown San Francisco). I know I have absolutely zero interest in driving 50 miles to get on a train. Heck, I avoid LAX like the plague.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to see mass transportation akin to what they have in Europe. On my most recent trip I took the train from Amsterdam to Munich. I was great. I think that Europe evolved into this infrastructure while we evolved into something else.

Take a city like Amsterdam and look at the light rail going everywhere. And take a look at the tens of thousands of bikes running around. That bike parking lot in Dam Square across from Central Station is simply amazing. Their culture and way of life have evolved around these ideas. Try to bring something like that into a megalopolis like Los Angeles and you'll fail. The place simply was not built with this kind of thinking in the first place. Heck, I drive 60 miles a day just picking up my kids from school!

I would like to see a transition to something more sensible than what we are doing today. I really would. I just don't think that high-speed rail is the way to do it and, therefore, think that investing in it would be a complete waste of money and resources.

If you want to feed money into something that has the potential to make great changes given our way of life and culture, send your monthly check to companies like Tesla. We desperately need to move away from these horrible, polluting and inefficient gasoline engines into something that provides greater options in terms of where energy might come from and could just be better for the environment.

When in Europe do as the Europeans. Here in the US. Well.

The first rail project is sheer madness. A giant wasteful boondoggle. The second is too. The 50th, however starts to bring real change. People want to live near the stations, and start thinking of travel differently. The 100th brings sea-change. Everything becomes different.

Commuter culture doesn't make rail, its the other way around.

If an LA - Vegas rail funded by the Casinos brings wealth along the way to Indian country then I am so grateful.

> Yikes! No! This is a complete waste of money. Our cities are just not built to make use of something like this. The various stake holders (environmental groups, politicians, industry, unions, etc.) all but make sure that these projects will cost ten times more than they should and end-up in exactly the wrong places. And, because of this, not enough people will use them.

Our cities are not built to take advantage of rail infrastructure because for half a century we have been heavily subsidizing the car industry instead of the rail industry.

Also, that's not even true. Lot's of parts of the country could take advantage of rail infrastructure. Amtrak's northeastern line runs at a profit, even though it's a shitty shitty excuse for a high speed rail line. A Europe-style high-speed rail connecting DC, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston would connect a huge urbanized corridor with half the population of France.

They basically have that already and it is heavily used.

High speed rails rarely go directly to suburbs. That's the realm of supporting transit - busses, subways, light rail, etc. They're far more valuable going directly between commerce centers, where there are reasons for people to travel, and where supporting transit will actually be used to get to/from the center (since nobody actually lives there).

If the high-speed rail were put in, and that great mass of people would use it, there would be money in providing transit between the rail and the great mass of people. So it could be built, and problem solved. But I don't see how going to great mass X (instead of Y, Z, etc) is better than great(est) commerce center A.

As to those locations specifically - I have no idea if they're suitable. But high speed transit goes to city centers, not fringes, basically everywhere in the world, and this should be no different.

In St. Louis, the suburbs have actively petitioned against and succeeded in blocking light rail service from the city. They are convinced that somehow evil city dwellers (mostly black, let's be honest) are going to come out to rob everything they own. Only in the last few years did the rail service even extend to the near western suburbs near the fancy malls, which if St Louis wasn't gerrymandered to shreds, would probably be part of the city limits.

It turned out the nightmare scenario came to pass and lots of young, black, lower income residents from East St Louis started showing up to the mall. A strange thing happened though, instead of destroying the area, they mostly just brought a lot of money and purchased things.

Seems obvious to me, but rich white folks be crazy sometimes and mostly they write the checks when it comes to city planning.

What do you think about this article?


  Ask virtually any store manager at the Saint Louis 
  Galleria about shoplifting, and you'll invariably get two 
  responses: One, it's out of control; and two, it's gotten 
  exceedingly worse since August 2006, when MetroLink opened 
  a stop just 500 yards from the high-end shopping center.

  In the first six months of this year, Richmond Heights 
  police made 345 arrests at the mall. That's nearly double 
  the number of arrests made in all of 2005, before 
  MetroLink opened its Shrewsbury line.

  More alarming are the numbers of juveniles (kids under the 
  age of seventeen) arrested at the mall. This year police 
  are on pace to take 276 juveniles into custody for 
  shoplifting and other offenses — a sevenfold increase over 
  the 39 kids arrested at the Galleria in 2005.

  "I know it's not politically correct, but how else do you 
  explain it?" comments a frustrated Galleria store manager 
  who, like many Galleria shopkeepers interviewed by 
  Riverfront Times, says her employer prohibits her from 
  officially speaking for the company.

  "Anyone can see all these people crossing Brentwood 
  Boulevard from the MetroLink station," the manager 
  continues. "Most of them aren't here to shop. They're here 
  to hang out and cause trouble."
These statistics appear to support the supposition that the MetroLink connection did indeed increase crime at the malls. Do you have any data to support the alternative hypothesis that "rich white folks be crazy"?

The real key is the bottom line for the shop, if theft has doubled and sales have doubled then the shop should be making more money.

That isn't addressed, all the article says is that theft is up.

To be pedantic, the important metrics are not percentage increases but rather the change in profits and the change in costs associated with theft.

That's not pedantic, those are the same metrics retailers use when making decisions.

I said I was being pedantic because I was agreeing with the post's main point (what matters is the bottom line for the shop) but felt there could be a better way to describe what it means for it to be better for the bottom line.

Well, be Bayesian about it.

The incidents described in the full article include huge violent fistfights that led to curfews. Low income people are unlikely to spend lots of money. Lots of theft and violence is accompanied by lots of broken windows behavior that may not rise to the level of a criminal offense, but does scare away higher income people (example: screaming at the screen in a movie theater). And very few retail shops operate at 100% margins such that a doubling of revenue would exactly compensate for a doubling in theft.

All in all, it is highly likely that events transpired as predicted by the project's critics. No doubt the proponents like homosaur did not sell the project as "violence will increase, thefts will double, and your previous patrons like Johnny Fields will leave, but...". They instead tried to insinuate that "rich white people be crazy" to think something like this might happen.

Violent fistfights are what make news. Just because something is news doesn't mean there is an underlying statistical basis to justify the conclusion of the article. Articles in papers are anecdotal in nature.

Actually low income people spend HUGE amounts of money, if you study economics you'd know that poor people pay more for almost any good than do the rich. What I mean by this is that the poor will by 500mL of milk rather than 4L, and so in a year when you look at the costs of milk for the poor they are more than the rich. Similarly, the poor shop at convenience stores and the rich shop at warehouse stores further exacerbating the price differential.

I will say, in rich white folks' defense, that the particular incident that is discussed in that article was pretty shocking; it wasn't just a couple of fistfights, it was a mini-riot. We're talking about 50 kids fighting here.

The issue of violence amongst teens has not been solved yet in St. Louis, even if the Galleria figured it out. The Delmar Loop, the other area talked about there, still has a major problem with petty crime and even had a shooting related to the spontaneous gathering of urban teenagers quite recently. The businesses can't have this both ways. They want all the increased business but they don't want to deal with paying for security. SLPD cannot solve these problems on their own and the Loop has dropped the ball on security and people are well aware of it now.

> They want all the increased business

Don't think it has yet been shown that their business actually increased due to these kids. The quotes from the article indicate otherwise: high income residents and middle lass kids were driven away by the violence and then the curfew. The mall owners aren't conflicted here, things transpired just as they had predicted.

That just isn't accurate though. That's not what happened at all. Yes, there was a period of about a year where they did not increase security or have a curfew or parental supervision policy in place where there were several incidents and a higher crime rate. That IMMEDIATELY plummeted over 25% after the parental supervision policy went in to place and by 2010 had dropped to levels that were essentially the same rate as existed before the metro stop was built.

You can't judge this from an outdated article about 2007. That was from that time period when it was a security free for all out there. The people who want to cause trouble certainly know they are not welcome at that mall anymore and will be arrested if they cause any trouble.

I'm guessing the Nordstroms, which is a very high end designer-centric dept. store with $200 silk ties and the like didn't move a 2 story store last year because the high income residents stopped coming. In fact, I'm sure the complete opposite is true.

And very few retail shops operate at 100% margins such that a doubling of revenue would exactly compensate for a doubling in theft.

They don't need 100% margins to come out on top if they sell more units than are stolen.

So if a shop was selling 10 units an hour and losing 1 unit an hour to theft, and footfall doubled (simplistically doubling sales and thefts), then the shop is now selling 20 units an hour and losing 2 to theft. At realistic margins, the shop is more profitable than it was.

The article says that arrests doubled, not that the costs associated with theft doubled.

Note that "costs associated with thefts" is not just the cost of the goods stolen. It includes the costs of security.

I also like how you think that they should be happy with your model, that how they feel about the situation is of no consequence.

They have to live with this situation; they've got skin in the game. You just post.

The article says that arrests doubled, not that the costs associated with theft doubled.

I wasn't discussing the article, but correcting errors in someone else's post.

I also like how you think that they should be happy with your model, that how they feel about the situation is of no consequence.

I never said what I think about the situation. I merely corrected someone else's financial misunderstanding.

They have to live with this situation; they've got skin in the game. You just post.

You're clearly angry at something. I strongly suggest you deal with this yourself, rather than continue to flail around and vent your frustration on strangers over the internet.

That general hypothesis seems to be supported by the massive expansion of the Galleria in recent years, including the giant new Apple store, several new restaurants, Nordstroms, etc

Just so you know, this article might have been accurate in 2006, but it's completely outdated. Kids don't get to hang out in the mall anymore and security at the Galleria is quite strict on this. There is a very staunch curfew policy there and I haven't heard of any incidents of violence like this since probably 2006 or 2007 and I would say that's the mall's fault in the first place for not being ready security-wise. They are now and there are zero problems other than the same shoplifting that goes on everywhere.

Suburbs of Atlanta, where I live, have also very energetically blocked any expansion of the downtown subway system, for the exact same reasons, rooted in racialised politics. As a result, the system has not been expanded since 1989, and, despite its potential, goes to uselessly few places that have no imaginable relevance to the existence of 90% of metro Atlanta residents.

The funny thing is, all the poor black people from the inner city come to their suburbs anyway. Who else is going to work in their low-wage retail sector? It's just that instead of doing so in an efficient and economical manner, they do so in old, broken-down cars that greatly contribute to the traffic problem that causes these very same suburbanites so much agony.

“Everyone knows what M.A.R.T.A. really stands for.”

Of course. :-)

"It turned out the nightmare scenario came to pass and lots of young, black, lower income residents from East St Louis started showing up to the mall. A strange thing happened though, instead of destroying the area, they mostly just brought a lot of money and purchased things."

If the new arrivals had so much money, why couldn't they just drive in earlier? Why did they have to wait till (cheap) public transportation was available to come to this mall?

They could, and probably did. But I would guess that the majority of them came and used it because of ease, not low cost.

You mean why didn't they blow thousands of dollars per year on an inefficient mode of transportation irrelevant to their ordinary daily lives? Can't imagine.

"High speed rails rarely go directly to suburbs."

And therein lies the problem for high speed rail in the US. We don't have that supporting network, and we're not going to. We're too spread out in our cities for it to work.

So it's drive 30 miles to the train station and then pay $15 a day for parking while on your trip, like the airport.

Definitely - most places in the US can't support a rail system. Partly because we're so spread out, but partly because it's a catch 22: we don't have it, so we all have cars, so we won't use it if we're offered it because cars are more convenient and they're already a sunk cost. Then there's also that our culture doesn't cast a very good light on public transit (homeless people, pee, graffiti, etc), and we're still very caught up in cars == freedom mentality.

edit: all that said, I'm not aware of anywhere that has high-speed rails going outside city centers. But I'm hardly an expert on this - I'd love a counter-example. Japan, for instance, has their bullet trains essentially only between city centers, and subway and light rail supporting it. And that's one of the better rail systems in the world.

Homeless people, pee and graffiti are fairly easy problems to solve, and can be turned around quite fast. Lots of places have resolved this.

The sunk cost argument can be overcome if you make public transport faster than cars, less congestion and parking difficulties is a big change. But you do have to rebuild it first (yes the US had public transport in the past, you ripped it out).

They're fairly easy problems to solve, but public opinion of it generally lags behind reality. And the occasional reappearance only strengthens it in people's minds for longer. So even once you've solved it, you still need to wait what are likely to be years to see the general population actually using the system without it being their last resort. During that time, funding threatens to drop because of lack of use. You need people willing to throw massive amounts of money at it until it works, not until it stops making money.

And yeah, if public transit gets better than personal, things will change very quickly. But that path involves trillions of dollars, and just try getting a tax increase voted through for one. I'd love it, but it's not happening any time soon, and certainly not on a large scale.

cars != freedom. cars == parking nightmare. I always feel so free when I don't have to think about finding parking.

I've heard that we've got a great existing rail infrastructure--the problem being that most isn't straight enough or suitable for use with high speed trains.

For example, the last train trip I took stopped a handful of times while we waited for livestock to finish crossing the tracks. High speed trains do not do this.

The proposed maglev train to Vegas from LA was supposed to be from Anaheim (aka Disneyland), not Union ("Central") Station in Downtown LA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California-Nevada_Interstate_Ma...

So a 1-2 hour drive for anyone living in Bev Hills, Hollywood, Brentwood, Santa Monica, etc... Not that Union Station is much more central. LA is just too damn big (geographically) to make that viable.

I think the choice of Anaheim was made in terms of moving tourists, proximity to Disney, right of way etc. Also Metrolink & Amtrak go to Anaheim, so you could in theory take the train from the Valley or SD and not have to drive at all

Of course American cities aren't built to support it, with their own present state of extremely automotive, exurban decentralization and highly distributed typography. It's a catch 22 that can only be solved by rather preemptive "build it and they will come" style investment, the goal being to slowly influence organic behaviour patterns over time. In the best possible case, people will start moving closer and closer to rail lines, and density of coverage will continue to usefully increase. In some cities that have developed entirely along the automotive paradigm, particularly New South developments like Atlanta (where I live), that may not be possible without a very radical restructuring, given their extremely hostile layout to anything but the car.

Nevertheless, if you give any credence whatsoever to a hydrocarbon-constrained future (and there are plenty of compelling reasons to do so), electric high-speed rail is the only option that makes sense.

> Heck, I drive 60 miles a day just picking up my kids from school!

This is incredibly inefficient. You could choose to organize your life another way. You'll get the cheap electric car sooner or later. You might even get cheap energy to run it with. But you'll never, ever get that time back.

Agreed. My next car will be fully electric whether I buy it or build it myself.

As far as organizing my life around it. Kind of tough. Sell the house and move? Can't do that. The schools are not moving. One of my kids will start at a school closer to home this year. The number will go down to 35 miles per day then. I can then contemplate the idea of a pedal-powered electric-assisted four-wheel contraption that I could most certainly build myself for a fraction of what an electric car would cost. It'd be a great project to teach the kids some engineering and ride around during good whether.

This is very true. To me, the time waste of driving is almost as great as the fuel waste or the environmental pollution.

But! I think the adoption of self-driving cars is actually going to beat the adoption of all-electric cars.

Well, that's Los Angeles. In Cascadia it's a bit different--Vancouver and Portland both have very well-functioning mass transit systems, and Seattle has an adequate but growing one which links to the Amtrak lines that go between the three major cities as well as the Empire Builder line to Chicago. I have little doubt that upgrading the Empire Builder and Cascades routes would be worthwhile.

I commute between Portland and Vancouver fairly frequently. Initially I drove because I never really considered not driving, but round trip expense wasn't really that much cheaper than flying ($120 in fuel costs compared to $175-$250 to fly) and time in airports and on planes was time I could be somewhat productive, while my ten hour round trip drive was completely wasted.

Then someone tipped me off about the train. It takes slightly longer than driving and about twice as long as flying, but it's almost all productive time. It's cheaper than flying and about the same as driving (depends what days you travel), and it's a much more pleasant experience than flying.

The only drawback is limited service (it's daily, but with limited direct service), but with better promotion and subsidies to increase demand, there's no reason service couldn't be more frequent. I'm sure there's equipment upgrades that could be made to shorten service times also.

Amtrak, in the pacific northwest at least, really is a hidden gem. It's a shame it's not more popular.

For American cities to stay competitive we need rail. We need to start building cities with rail in mind.

The train station in downtown LA is called Union Station, the one in NY is Grand Central.

Also, they are extending the lines that feed into Union slowly but surely. Pasadena already has good coverage, Hollywood coverage is decent, Santa Monica's Expo line should be done in a couple of years - it's already halfway done to Culver City. South LA lines already get lots of riders.

The REAL problem in LA is a taxi is still the best way to get to LAX.

> The absence of such makes us the laughingstock of Europe and Asia.

Please. The geography of the US compared to these Europe & Asia projects are so radically different, the reason high-speed rail hasn't been a priority is because it isn't as viable here. Rail fares are more expensive than flights [1], and a trip from SF<->LA would take anywhere from 2-3 times as long. No thanks.

I've traveled by air and rail around Europe, and I greatly prefer flying. Cheaper, and faster. The only people laughing at us are the americans who think a rail infrastructure is something to be jealous of.

[1] http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/11/despite-rising-price...

Norway has a population density about 1:10th that of the US, and somehow making rail work in most of the country hasn't been an issue.

What people forget whenever making this argument is that while your population density is low, you have large areas - larger than many countries - with quite high density. Your population density is pulled down by the vast areas with really low density.

And yes, as a European: Your rail infrastructure is the subject of widespread ridicule. I'm 36. I don't have a drivers license - I've never had a compelling need for one. Only time I've ever missed having one is when visiting the US.

Unfortunately, Norway's rail is actually pretty comparable to the U.S.'s, I think. For example, the main Oslo-Bergen line, connecting the country's two largest cities, takes about 7 hours to travel the 500 km (300 mi), which is about Amtrak-level speeds. As a result, the Norwegian domestic air-travel market is one of the largest in Europe (esp. relative to population).

It's nothing like the US at all. You're right that in terms of speed, Norway does not have high speed rail (there's a massive amount of discussion about building out high speed rail service, but it's not likely to happen for years).

What Norway does have, however, is a rail network that is provides viable service for a huge number of people in terms of frequency, and a network that provides a decent route selection, and that particularly covers the heaviest commuter routes.

That's part of the point: Whenever rail in the US gets brought up, people use the vast size of the country as a counter-argument, but that's irrelevant: Countries like Norway who also deals with low population density and large distances still provide service that makes it easy to commute by rail and other public transport.

You don't need to cover every possible route. But there's a vast number of potential routes in the US, connecting areas with high population densities and a lot of commuter traffic, that's so poorly served that nobody can depend on them.

THAT is the problem. Not the distances. Lack of willingness to invest in making the routes that can be viable reliable enough and with frequent enough services that people actually can use them.

High speed rail is great for some routes. But frequency and reliability matters far more for most stretches.

In the cities and densely populated regions of Norway you can easily get around without having a car. Or flying. And that includes stretches like Oslo-Bergen, Oslo-Stavanger or Oslo-Trondheim, though all of them are slow. The rail, tram, light rails and bus services combine to provide services that are reasonably frequent, and reliable enough that you can actually use them without too much hassle.

And keep in mind our largest city has half a million people (Oslo), and the metro area around it has less than 1 million people including the city itself...

I'm from Oslo (though I now live in London) and used to commute from a suburban village outside of Oslo by rail for years, and then within Oslo and out from Oslo to a tiny little place outside of town for a few years. Trains were frequent and fast.

Fast forward a few years, and I had to travel regularly to Palo Alto. It was a nightmare without a drivers license. I depended on cabs pretty much everywhere. Sure, I could get the train in to San Francisco now and again, but the service is/was near unusable. Half hourly services a lot of the day, if that. Slow. Ends early in the afternoon - I went to SF one weekend and had to rush to get back to the station by 9pm to get the last train back. WTF...

Buses were a joke. Even walking is hell - "everyone" in Europe who's been to the US tends to consider US roads pretty much built to kill pedestrians. Menlo Park to Palo Alto, for example, or Redwood City to Menlo Park, are walking distance as far as I'm concerned. But the obvious route along El Camino Real is without sidewalks a lot of the way... Yet that was nothing compared to trying to walk around the small part of Virginia I've seen when visiting DC.

It's a cultural issue that starts with the assumption that everyone will drive, so why bother? If you're going to get trains, the assumption needs to be that people will leave the car at home (or that you want to try to get them to, at least). So it needs to become easy to walk locally, easy get the bus when you need to go a little but further, with good service to rail stations, and frequent rail service suitable for commutes or taking a trip into town.

Only then is there much point thinking about things like high-speed rail. High speed rail is for a population that's already used to consider rail a good choice, and that often opts for rail even when plane is faster, because of the convenience.

If you mean that urban transit (commuter rail, buses, etc.) is better in Norway, I can agree with that, though you're comparing to Silicon Valley, one of the more notoriously car-centric parts of the US. It explicitly opted out of BART in order to spend more money on freeways, giving it the distinction of being one of the few places in the US that has not only national interstate highways and state highways, but also county highways built to full freeway standards (overpasses, etc).

Transit convenience is much better in New York, Boston, or Chicago, and many people in New York don't own cars. Heck, even other parts of the Bay Area are better; if you live in SF or Berkeley you don't need a car, and many people don't have one.

In any case, it's the intercity lines I'm more skeptical of, which so far (I live in Copenhagen) don't seem all that much better in Scandinavia than Amtrak in speed or frequency. You can go once per hour Copenhagen-Stockholm, for example, which is about the same frequency as the Boston-NYC-DC route. And like the US, once you get off one or two main routes, everything is slow and infrequent. For example, Copenhagen-Oslo (600 km) runs twice a day (with one change) and most people fly instead. I've also ended up giving up and flying instead every time I've tried to find a train from Copenhagen to continental Europe. It looks like getting to some German cities would be possible, but getting to Amsterdam would've required 12 hours and two changes.

Norway is the size of Montana.

Which is entirely irrelevant, given that this scales. Split your country into regions, and treat them separately. Oh wait, they're already split into states, countries, cities, and in many other ways.

It's a tedious argument that gets trotted out every time someone compares the US with another country in terms of public transport.

But every other country also has low density areas, which often have weaker public transport.

As it stands, the US has lots of low density areas, but also a large number of really high density areas. I don't think anyone would complain about lack of train coverage for your hopelessly low density areas.

What is a joke is that there are US cities with populations the size of small European countries that are still served by useless rails systems, and there such cities within what would be easy reach of each other with decent rails where it is pointless to try.

E.g. someone pointed out that Oslo to Bergen in Norway is still about 7 hours. But that is 7 hours between a city of 500.000 people, in a region with less than 1 million, an a city of about 120.000 people. Yet there is a viable train service covering the stretch. What's in between? Mostly a mountain range where practically nobody lives. It's a service that is mostly there to serve the endpoints.

Yes, a lot of the potential riders take a plane instead.

How many regions in the US do you have with 500k-1m people on one end of a what could be a 7 hour rail link with regular speed trains, with 120k-200k people on the other end, that are currently not served by rail at all?

Now add in the number of much larger cities.

That combined with the useless excuse for commuter rail outside of some very limited areas (mostly a handful of cities on the East coast) is what makes Europeans generally consider the state of rail in the US to be ridiculous.

The argument is valid. It's cheaper to fly than to take rail even in Germany where I live (I am an American). Multiply the distances by 3x or 5x and even if the USA had good rail services it'd be drastically more cost effective to fly (to say nothing of time).

It simply does not scale the way you think it would. The population density varies widely in the USA.

But you're not multiplying the distances by 3x or 5x. That's the point. You're not replacing air travel for distances where train travel is not competitive. You're multiplying the rail networks - covering a larger number of smaller hops.

That's how it scales.

The US has a massive list of metropolitan areas far more densely populated than Norway, and far more densely populated than the Oslo-region (by far the most densely populated area of Norway) that are under-served by rail or near enough to each other for cost effective inter-city rail connections but that doesn't have viable rail links today.

I'm not arguing that coast to coast rail links are viable in the US because they are viable in Norway. That'd be stupid - the distances are far larger.

I'm arguing that the fact that Norway has viable train links from Oslo to Bergen and Trondheim (about 7-8 hours without high speed rail for both of them) - from a region with less than 1 million people to regions with less than a quarter million people each - is a pretty good demonstration that there's a multitude of stretches in the US that are short enough and between populated enough towns that they could be viable for proper rail links, or because the stretches include more populated areas (both the Oslo-Bergen and Oslo-Trondheim links are through very sparsely populated regions so the traffic is dominated by traffic between the endpoints)

Nope - because of the unavoidable fact that you'll still need a car at the other end to get around. That's not how US cities work.

I would give a counter argument. Our industrial rail system is actually a stellar system. We simply made a choice a century ago to make our industrial rail a priority. Passenger railroad was the choice of Europe, but we can move freight across the country faster then anyone. This of course hampers any chance of passenger rail because they use the same infrastructure.

Greyhound is cheaper and faster from Seattle to LA than Amtrak.

Not everyone wants to go long distance all the time. Europe has airports too. Personally in Europe I usually prefer trains up to around 8 hours journey, but it varies and I do go for longer. You can work much more effectively on trains. That is say 1000 miles on high speed train roughly - you have places closer than that I think...

Funny that you should mention recurring fees in return for lower prices _and_ inter-city rail infrastructure - that's exactly what the Swiss have: http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/railpasses/half...

German railways also lets you buy a discount card - 25%, 50%, or 100% valid for a year. I got the BahnCard 50, and the first week of intense conferencing already paid it back.

On the East Coast high speed rail infrastructure has existed for over a decade. So CA is also trailing other parts of the US as well, considering that Amtrak has been able to operate Acela trains across multiple states on aging infrastructure for some time now.

Acela is awesome and I prefer it to flying when going from Boston to NYC and back, but you can really tell that the tracks are old. The ride is nowhere near as smooth as the trains in Europe, especially when you hit 150 mph.

The absence of such makes us the laughingstock of Europe and Asia.

I was with you till this point, but that's just wrong. The USA is vastly larger than continental Europe, and has problems of scale that are correspondingly larger. If you don't believe me, let me do some back-of-the-envelope land area comparisons for you to the UK, France, and Germany (or your country of choice).

No-one's suggesting cross-continent rail. The argument that US population densities are vastly below those in other countries is true on a country wide scale, but false when you look at the key population corridors.

San Francisco to San Diego is approximately 500 miles. 24 million people live in that corridor.[1]

Paris to Marseille is 481 miles. It takes about 3 hours and 16 minutes by train to make that journey. I'm not particularly adept at French, so finding corridor population details is difficult. However, judging by the population of the regions the train passes through [2], I'd estimate that (11.7, 1.6, 6.1 and 4.9) 24.3 million people live in that corridor. That's a really rather close number.

Lack of high speed rail in the US is probably due to the auto companies removing the public transport that provides a feeder into that kind of system. The large spread out cities are a symptom of a car culture, not the other way around.

[1]: http://www.slideshare.net/mmazner/ne-corridor-facts [2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranked_list_of_French_regions

Thats what you get now (and for the last 40years)by buying full price tickets - you can simply not checkin and pay nothing

Thats the whole reason for overbooking flights, adn why you can upgrade to 1st class - the airline only knows that the discount seats will show up

$180 for a flight tomorrow AM on southwest SFO LAX. That's $360 RT. Of course Palo Alto is more convenient than SFO and you're going to be taking a $100 car ride each way that's $200. So $560. Four times a month and it's a bargain... I know plenty of people from Palo Alto who had made that type of commute twice a week.

Wow, this looks really interesting. Palo Alto to Monterey is definitely within driving distance for me, but if I had any reason to go to LA or SB at all frequently, this would rock.

If they'd cover NV, this would be a great way to save a lot of money on taxes -- live in the Reno area, have a NV residence, and fly to the Bay Area 1-2 times/week for meetings. You then only pay income tax on income earned in California, but not on capital gains, and not on any work you do outside California. That could easily be a savings of more than $1k/mo.

That is largely why Incline Village exists.

Yeah, but you'd have to live in Reno.

As someone who moved from Boston to Reno I'm really surprised by all the hate this little city gets. I've always said that it has 80% of what I like about larger cities but only 20% of what I hate. There's a surprising amount of good food, a growing and active hacker community, it's a short drive to tahoe, and SF is just a day trip when you need it, and coming from the northeast the weather is fantastic.

At the same time people here think a 20 minute commute is outrageous, the cost of living is insanely cheap, and the majority of the city is extremely safe.

Don't get me wrong, I'm never going to argue that, as a city, Reno competes with any larger US cities. But imho it beats that hell out of anywhere that has a similar cost of living. Most people I know in larger cities tend to move an hour or two into the suburbs as they get older and end up making time to get into the city very rarely, I'd definitely take Reno over that.

I don't think Reno is the greatest place on earth, but I can never understand why people despise it so much more than anywhere else.

For my lifestyle (I like guns, and a fairly remote, large house), I'd basically prefer to live in NV to living in the Bay Area. But realistically the "commute to SF" lifestyle might work for a consultant or an employee at a late stage company, but not for a startup founder.

I really hope Tony Hsieh's Downtown Las Vegas stuff works out well.

Not to get completely off the OP, but I would be interested to hear your reasons for not thinking Reno would be good for a startup founder and specifically how Las Vegas would be different.

I don't disagree with you, just looking for an outside perspective. I've lived in both Reno and Las Vegas and have been working to build up the Reno startup community through Reno Collective coworking, Ignite Reno, WordCamp, Hack4Reno, etc. We've pulled off a lot of things and seen a lot of growth in the last few years but we know there is still a long way to go.

Either would be fine; Reno is closer to SF by car. Las Vegas has a bigger stock of houses (cheap), and a better airport -- being able to fly non-stop to basically anywhere is a big plus for b2b. Also, conferences happen in Vegas, so having a house there to use just for conferences and frontsight trips would make some sense. Las Vegas is a much bigger city, so all the other infrastructure is more likely to exist. I prefer the environment around Reno (well, the Tahoe area), and I hate Clark County laws vs. everywhere else in NV.

Neither one is ideal now, and neither has an "anchor tech company". Zappos isn't really enough of a tech company to be that. Hsieh's thing might be able to accomplish that, though. Having a pool of people familiar with startups to hire from would be great, but realistically you'd be recruiting people to relocate in either case.

This is an absolutely wonderful idea, I just don't see how it can scale into being a workable long term business. I would absolutely pay for this (if I was on the route) but the plane looks very small[1], if there's minimal room and reservations are important (you can't just turn up and fly) the "unlimited" is going to become "your reservation amount" very very fast. The value in being a subscriber would be the flexibility.

[1] "that will fly just below the TSA’s radar – using 9-person planes to dodge under their screening of any plane carrying over 10 passengers." -- http://www.forbes.com/sites/edzitron/2011/06/29/planered/

> you can't just turn up and fly

I bet a lot of people (mostly business(wo)men) would be willing to pay through the nose for a subscription service where:

a) You can just turn up and fly

b) You get true first-class service and food (à la Pan Am in its heyday), not what they pass off as first-class these days

c) Comfortable chairs with lots of legroom (they're most of the way there on this right now with first-class)

d) "Volume" subscriptions (just like with software) available for large companies

e) Relaxed luggage size/weight requirements

f) Good wifi and cell phone service (support for all major carriers) on-board

g) No children allowed

h) Frequent departures, using small planes

i) You don't have to go through all the TSA crap, both the screening as well as restrictions on what you can bring on-board

j) No silly restrictions on electronic device usage, including during takeoff and landing

The last two would obviously be near impossible thanks to the government, but the others are definitely doable.

Once you add up the cost of satisfying all those requirements simultaneously, aren't we basically into the corporate-jet-rental price range? You've got stuff like NetJets serving that market.

I've never heard of NetJets before, but it looks like it's for big business only (since you have to own a fraction of the jet). I was thinking of primarily appealing to the individual businessperson market and use economies of scale to drive the prices down.

Flight Options is within the realm of the small (yet successful) business person. (http://www.flightoptions.com)

$4,000 an hour? You'd need to be pretty successful indeed.

But that's pretty much the minimum price for any "show up and fly" program to be profitable. Also, keep in mind that this is price per plane, not per seat.

Sure; just saying, those aren't small business numbers.

No problem at all. It would only cost you, well, a ridiculous amount of money, most probably several orders of magnitude more than what you are willing/able to pay.

Doesn't Delta give you this with their private air program?

I'm not sure how it compares to Pan Am though---because I wasn't alive during those days.

By using small planes they can fly from minor airports (and city center STOL fields) or from the FOB section of major airports

That means faster checkin, quick TSA and no screaming kids.

A few airlines have failed trying to do this on transatlantic routes because the airlines/airports have a strangle hold on the big airports. The major airlines don't like competition and the airports don't like their richest customers speeding through without the opportunity to spend that 4hour checkin provides.

I wish we could get this on the East Coast. D.C. -> Philadelphia -> NYC -> Boston

I would easily pay $1000 to $1500 a month.

It would as affordable as an Amtrak pass and just as convenient.

The possibilities for those who don't want to move to another city for work but want to broaden their options (or course if your salary range allows--but if you are making 100k or more it is brilliant).

D.C. to Philly is 140 miles. Philly to NYC is 90 miles. NYC to Boston is 220 miles. Is it really necessary to spend $1000-$1500 a month to go that short of a distance? There's 50 year old technology that went into commercial use before man stepped foot on the moon. This is insane.

At some point America is going to realize that it needs a 21st century infrastructure. It's going to cost a lot more in 20-30 years, of course.

Amtrak Acela, Boston - NYC is $173 one-way and takes 3 hours and 30 minutes. That quickly adds up.

For some reason Amtrak is by far the least subsidized form of transport in the US. If cars had so little subsidy gas tax would be 3 dollars a gallon to cover road construction, maintenance, and parking lots etc. Airplanes are less subsidized, but you would still see an extra 20-40% added to the ticket price.

It might not be rational, but we pay a lot more in taxes to make it seem like traveling is far less expensive than it actually is.

You're completely wrong about Federal highway spending: 90+% is funded by gas taxes and other user fee-like sources. In contrast, Amtrak is hugely subsidized on a passenger-miles basis.

I suggest you rethink the numbers.

Several states impose a fuel tax that's below their sales tax limit. They still need to pay for road maintenance.

"U.S. annual gasoline consumption is 140 billion gallons and growing." The federal tax is 18.4 cents per gallon that's 25.76 billion a year but you need to subtract out the oil company subsidy's, NHTSA's billion a year for safety, federal reconstruction aid after a disaster etc, and not just the new federal construction costs.

While 'free parking' is available in large sections of the country it still takes land and someone needs to maintain it. However, it's vary unusual for federal, state, or local governments to pay for such parking as part of a gas tax, it's generally taken from the budget of the agency providing that parking space.

You are very, very wrong, because not only are you not accounting for state fuel taxes, but toll roads, AND, the extra fees paid by truckers and other commercial vehicles. However I am not goint to write a dissertation for your sole benefit - suffice it to say, that each 18 wheeler you see, is a source of over $25K per year in taxes. Yes, over $2000 per month.

18 wheeler's do significantly more damage than cars or bridges to road surfaces. I could go into it, but I don't think you want to hear that the average 18 wheeler does more than 2k a month in damage to road surfaces. (It's vary weight and speed dependent, but when you look at the average it's well over 2k a month. http://archive.gao.gov/f0302/109884.pdf basically road damage from one 18-wheeler is equivalent to 9600 cars.)

Anyway, I responded to someone making a very specific claim about federal spending so I responded to that, state spending is a far more complex issue so here are some numbers:


Do you really think Alaska magically get's by on 8 cents a gallon or are the diverting funds for somewhere else to pay for roads? They don't have a sales tax so the math is easy on that one.

But, now let's look at Wyoming it has a nice 4% general tax on everything and charges 14 cents a gallon for gas. Let's say gas is around 3.25 a gallon before taxes and at 4% would wait for it be 13 cents. Do you think that single extra cent is going to pay to maintain all their roads? Because if the tax was 12 cents a gallon clearly they would be subsidizing that relative to you buying say cheeseburgers and they don't exactly have a lot of toll roads. Then again, if they spent close to the same percentage on road maintenance as people did on gas then the numbers would work out just fine. But wait for it, they don't.

How do you know so much about federal and municipal taxes? HN is made up of people with such diverse backgrounds, I'm curious.

That's almost exactly the distance between Shinjuku (Tokyo) and Sendai, Japan. $40 cheaper + an hour faster by train. I think that's the alternative. High speed rail.

If you happen to live by Omiya's station (about 30mi closer to Sendai), you'd be there in under 2 hours.

London Paris is 60mi further but under 3hours - and there is a sea in the way,

If even the English can do public projects better than you, you have a problem!

There aren't tens of millions of people living in the Channel blocking the path the train needs to take; digging the Channel tunnel was simple compared to putting straight rail lines between Boston, NYC, Philly, and DC.

Dig a tunnel under the people if you think it is easier then.

Boston's Big Dig project was an incredibly expensive tunnel project. I'm not sure how much of the cost overrun was due to the terrain they were digging through. I think it'll be a long time before another major tunnel project will be approved though.

NYC always has several big tunnel projects going on. The problem here is the very hard granite and the depth of existing infrastructure. New tunnels have to be very deep. At the moment I believe there is a large east-side subway project and a water main project. There was supposed to be a new west side tunnel for Amtrak and NJ Transit trains coming into Penn Station from NJ, but unfortunately NJ's ahole governor killed the project.

I'm not familiar with tunnelling projects in Philly and DC, or the areas between them. I suspect the terrain is a lot more varied than below the Channel though. It'd be challenging to tunnel the whole way.

Just to build on this a bit, the Channel Tunnel's current location was chosen because this way nearly its entire length runs through continuous chalk, which is incredibly easy (especially compared to granite, or wet silt) to tunnel through. It's soft enough to cut through without too much problem, but it's still rigid and dry enough that you don't have to worry too much about collapses.

The fun part is that it's now finally this fast after a lot of hurt British pride when the trains used to have to break when reaching the British side, because the tracks were of too poor quality compared to on the French side. It's taken years for them to upgrade the British side (and moving the terminal to another station where the trains could make am ore direct approach instead of going in a large semi-circle on crappy, congested suburban lines) to let the trains run at full speed.

That's right the average speed between NYC and Boston is around 60 mph. It's not high-speed rail, which is 150mph+.

Beijing to Shanghai, for example, is currently averaging 186mph, and if they get back to initial goals, they'll average over 200mph.


In short, NYC to Boston should be 90 minutes by train.

You can get a monthly pass from NYP to BOS for $1700 or a ten-ride pass for $780. See here: http://tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak/multiride

Taking into account travel time to and from the airports, plus time spent in security, you might be looking at longer than 3.5 hours.

Still, travel along the Northeast corridor would be a lot cheaper if those fares didn't have to subside ridiculous cross-country routes. A one-way ticket from New York to Los Angeles (changing trains in Chicago) costs $266 and takes 62 hours, not including the 5 hour layover. Why are these trains still running?

There are relatively few people that take the cross-country trains end-to-end, and a lot of people that get on or off at some little town along the way. For many of the more rural parts of the country, this is their primary access to long-distance travel. (This is especially true since the various phases of airline deregulation have increasingly caused smaller airports to close.)

There are also strong network effects in play. NYP to BOS is great if you're just going from NYP to BOS. But if you're going from NYP up to Portland, or BOS to Trenton or Pittsburgh or something, the cheap NYP-BOS connection is useless to you unless there are also not-extremely-expensive links from NYP or BOS to your actual endpoints. Part of what makes NYP-BOS so cost-effective as a route is that it's also fed by other lines that A) exist and B) aren't prohibitively expensive.

> Why are these trains still running?

A political reason is that the keep-Amtrak-alive coalition is basically a mixture of urban transit advocates and representatives from rural areas who want to keep their town's train stop. A system that only served the major cities wouldn't have broad enough support, especially if it were only the major coastal cities (e.g. if you cut the Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, etc. services).

How overbooked does Amtrak get? Maybe Amtrak should be selling subscriptions. Or bulk discounts, but the passes are per person and expire end of the month.

Amtrak does sell monthly passes. See my post above: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3813734

They actually had planned to launch on the East Coast, but changed their minds because of the train services there.

More info: http://pandodaily.com/2012/04/05/silicon-valley-gets-its-own...

"So, will this model work? That’s a big question. They had originally planned to launch it on the East Coast but quickly realized, with the train service there, it wasn’t a great market."

Kind of funny. We don't even have high-speed rail in this country yet. The distance between LA and San Francisco is less than 400 miles. Someday it'll be a 2 hour train trip, but it's looking like it'll be another 100 years at this point.

I'm in favor of better quality rail service in this country but for various reasons it's not simple.

Acquiring land already developed on to get lines in and out of larger cities isn't simple, and building underground routes like the "Chunnel" to get out of city centers isn't cheap.

And, I agree, there is a cultural perspective of rail travel that changed dramatically once it became affordable for so many to own a car.

I think I have a weird perspective on this, but here goes..

I keep meaning to write about "why I refuse to move to the valley", and transportation and the negative impact it has on housing, is one of them. They are solving a real problem, but if you've lived abroad (or in a few NA cities like NY), you know that it isn't an efficient solution. It also isn't accessible to most.

Some of the comments in this thread have, for the first time, made this capitalist associate himself with the 99% movement.

I'm not sure why you're getting downvoted. Maybe for the final 99% thing you threw in?

I agree 100% with your sentiments about transportation in the West. I get that the weather is great and world-class outdoor activities are only a few hours drive away.

...But your groceries are also a drive away. And your friends. And your job. And your restaurant.

I live in Cambridge, MA and walk everywhere: to the lab, to the store, to friend's houses, to eat. For people used to it, walkability of a place is a huge, huge living quality factor.

In San Francisco I can walk, bike, or take the train to most places I care to go. I realize other places (particularly SoCal) aren't like that though.

forget socal, just look at the south bay!

I grew up in Fremont, and worked for many years there, as well as in San Jose, SF, Mountain View.

Then I moved to Amsterdam. There are many 'quality of life' reasons why I'm here, but probably one of the biggest is that I'm a 10 minute bike from work, 15 minute train ride to an Int'l airport, 2 minute walk to a dozen cafe's & restaurants. Waiting in line at the grocery store takes longer than the walk home. On dates, my wife and I walk to the movies.

Walk/Bike-ability is a huge life improvement. I'd wager that it'll have more impact than a nicer car, a personal driver, or a 'private' jet subscription.

This sounds almost too good to be true. I think, though, they'll hit the same problem as many other "unlimited" services: Those customers most likely to buy it are the ones most likely to use it to excess. How do they make money with their "best" customers flying a dozen times a month or more, not only consuming jet fuel, but also potentially blocking out the guy who books twice a month?

If you had Boeing field in Seattle, to Palo Alto, then I would probably use this to live in the Bay Area (which my wife would prefer) and work in Redmond - it would take a lifestyle adjustment, but not a huge one.

If you're used to living in Washington, remember that California will take an additional ~10% of your income over $47,000 to state taxes. That starts to add up in a HUGE way--it's one reason why people are leaving the state in droves [1]. (Housing prices are the other big issue.)

[1]: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/27/local/la-me-californ...

I think you would prefer Reno/Las Vegas to Seattle

The problem with this seems that the only people who will buy this are the people who spend more than $1k/mo on flights, so they'll end up having a really hard time making money. But I'd love to be proven wrong.

A big argument seems to be the no-hassle idea. No security queues and the ability to book very spontaneously (apparently they make an app for booking) can be good reasons to go with them, I guess.

(The heck, I read their whole faq despite being on the other side of the ocean without any need to fly because I find the idea so intriguing..)

Well, I think the target customer is not the one who buys commercial flights but maybe the one who usually reserve private jets to fly to the Bay Area from LA. $1,000 for this kind of customer could be extremely interesting.

Yea, it's hard to imagine many private individuals would rack up $1,000 every month flying from Palo Alto to LA and back. I've seen $80 specials to fly Bay Area to LA, so you'd have to be making something like 5 round trips a month.

>I've seen $80 specials to fly Bay Area to LA, so you'd have to be making something like 5 round trips a month.

The people willing to pay 1k/month for this are probably not in the group of people looking for $80 specials.

Head over to Flyertalk.com. It's more common than you think.

Those specials are also inflexible and require either advance planning or a lucky weekend special. The target market for something like this is frequent fliers who need complete flexibility.

This is targeted towards not the $80 specials people but the guys who fly 2 or more times a month in first class.

The difference being that for $80 you're flying with the masses, dealing with TSA, etc...

Of course, I'm just contemplating whether or not they would get many customers who would fly so much as to lose the company money.

If I'm not mistaken, a decent chunk of expense for commercial airlines is in fees to have a gate and terminal area for their aircraft. Here, they will probably fly out of the general aviation section of airports, where they'll get charged a small ramp fee at most.

true, guess an admirals club is out of the question.

FBO's are more fun anyway ;)

I would love the option to pay for unlimited air travel. The "All You Can Jet" pass from JetBlue hit the sweet spot at $599 with a 3 month window and many destinations. I would like to see a company offer that again even if it means a no frills military transport style plane.

Love the military transport style plane idea. If they were using an actual military cargo plane, I would be all up for that, just for the experience.

It seems that a customer has no control about specific departure day or time? So it's less of a "fly to Santa Monica on Tuesday, come back on Thursday", and more of "give me the next available flight to Santa Monica, whenever it comes up, which could be a week from now"?

* between Palo Alto/Monterey/Santa Barbara/LA.

pretty huge caveat there!

LA -> Palo Alto is a route I have to make 2-3 times a month (4-6 flights including both legs.) Not a bad MVP to start with for a service like this IMHO.

This is a terrible idea. Why do people still need to do vast amounts of air travel when we have the Internet, Skype, gotomeeting, etc. air travel involves a lot of wasted time and a LOT of carbon emissions. We should be encouraging less travel not more.

Sales is still a very person to person thing. To date, there is no substitute for direct personal interaction when it comes to relationship building.

Which would you rather have:

Dinner with $FAVORITE_CELEBRITY or the equivalent Skype session?

Lots of comments about not being able to "just turn up and fly." My wife and I are in a boat club that's structured the same way--one flat annual fee and you can reserve a boat any time you want. Only one reservation at a time.

Never once have we been unable to reserve a boat, even on a holiday with only a few hours notice. I assume the same level of availability would be possible in a flying club, dependent of course on the ratio of travelers to planes.

What you describe is "franctional ownership" for owner-pilots and there are already equivalents of that in the airspace (i.e. AirShare Elite - http://www.airshareselite.com/).

The difference between SurfAir and fractional ownership is that the latter usually have a fleet of semi-identical vehicles (boats, planes, whatever) that are available at your disposal and that you are able to operate them... With SurfAir, it seems like there is only one plane with a pilot, which greatly limits flexibility and availability of the program.

I'm thinking that I work close to the Palo Alto airport, and houses are a lot cheaper near Monterey. I could easily see this working out for me. Then a whole bunch of other people will have the same idea as me, and then it won't work out well.

Of course, I also notice they think it will take 15 minutes to get from Palo Alto to Monterey (60 miles straight plus departure/approach navigation) which is unpossible.

> houses are a lot cheaper near Monterey

If by "near" you mean Salinas, then yes, but then East Palo Alto is pretty cheap too. Monterey itself (and vicinity like Pacific Grove) is absurdly expensive!

I was think more of Seaside or Marina. Not as interesting as Pacific Grove, and not as pricey.

One thing that wasn't clear to me was how much in advance you will need to book your flights. Was that explained somewhere? It's really a question of how many members they allow per plane. The ability to reserve more spaces seems to indicate that you have to plan in advance.

Add Mammoth Lakes, Tahoe and San Diego and I could see this really catching on. LA to Mammoth is 5 hours and yet it is the ski area of choice for most of southern california. I even had a season pass and would drive up for one day trips if the snow was good.

Keep in mind -- NO TSA.

Interesting idea, but I can't quite figure out how it would work. Do they have set departures or can you tell them to go whereever as long as no one else has booked it?

I'm moving to a job in Hawthorne (LA), and since I hate sitting in traffic, I'm strongly considering commuting by air. I'd fly myself though, even with a low-end general aviation plane you can comfortably get out of LA in 45 minutes. Apparently it's done: http://www.aopa.org/learntofly/whyfly/commute.html :)

Very interesting idea. Looks like some form of NetJets on a budget.

Over on NPR Planet Money, there was an episode that suggested that looking at how much money airlines have lost, cheap flights are a function of shareholder largess. it is one commodity that hasn't made their investors much money. Timeshare is an interesting business model, especially if they can achieve required scale, upon which they become defensible.

I know they're adding Vegas soon, but adding NYC would be absolutely killer. I would sign up immediately for LA-Vegas-NYC.

They would need to either: add stopovers or buy a lot more expensive airplane to fly such long range.

Anyone know what type of plane they're using (in the photos) and how many passengers it can hold?

I'm guessing based on the picture alone but I believe its a Pilatus PC-12: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilatus_PC-12

It's a Pilatus PC-12, capacity of 6 to 8 people depending on configuration.

I'm surprised there is no Vegas on that list of destinations.

"with expanded service to Las Vegas, San Diego, Lake Tahoe and other destinations following soon."

I wonder if you could resell your reservations.

Additionally, I would love to support a little airline like this even by buying an occasional single round-trip.

Congrats to the team. I have been on some planning calls and they are truly disrupting the airline space!

I wouldn't call a service that is only of use to people that regularly spend more than $1,000/month traveling between four California cities "disrupting the airline space."

Not every company with a slightly different business model is "disruptive."

Yeah, but if you're taking four regional flights a month, you are probably spending as much or more than this and you're paying to do it either in a cattle car or for a 300% first class markup. It does have a limited market now, but what happens when they get a little cash and start buying slightly larger planes? What about if this drops to $500 a month? How about $300? I'm guessing businesses would be all over it. Think about buying a plan for an entire business, not just a single traveler.

Not having to deal with TSA / crowded planes / screaming babies is definitely worth something, so their market is not limited to just people who spend more than $1,000 / month.

Their business may be ready for takeoff, however their website has already crashed.

What's new about this? Other airlines also have vouchers and unlimited plans.

No TSA, which is almost worth it by itself.

I wouldn't count on that scenario lasting if that is even the case at all.

PHX -> Palo Alto would be perfect. Alas, no Phx. :(

Haha, this is awesome. What can't be done?

Wait, is that a flight startup?

Someone with private jet cost knowledge should be able to run some numbers really quick:

they have 9 seat jets that cost a certain amount to buy /lease /fuel /service. Assume that all nine passengers travel just once a month and then move to 1.5 times a month, then twice a month and so on. My layman guess is that this is introductory pricing and they might to revise it pretty soon.

*I pay $50 in gas to travel 250 miles with my full size sedan car, so jet fuel alone must be a lot. Another major deal breaker is wait time. Do I have to make reservations 4 months in advance or can I call the same day?

It's unlikely to be a jet for such short distances.

From their website it looks like the Pilatus PC-12 (single engine turboprop). Those burn around 65 gallons per hour @ ~$5.50/gal for Jet-A and cruise at somewhere north of 300mph.

This looks like a lite-corporate charter plan. Although this wouldn't make sense on my personal finance schedule, for my business this would be an amazing value.

But - what airport in LA does this service fly to? Please say Santa Monica. :)

LAX, JW, LB, or Burbank would be much less convenient...

Don't forget Van Nuys. That's actually the busiest general aviation airport in the world by a wide margin.

Sure, Van Nuys. That would also be much less convenient than SM ;)

let's bring some context to this.

the age of the microtransistor has ushered in an era where any businessmale or woman can conduct business or find entertainment anywhere in the world with a delay measured not in hours but in milliseconds, at a cost measured not in the thousands of dollars per month but in the dozens. With unlimited transmission capacity for documents, moving pictures, radio and television broadcasts and recodings, gramophones, and telefacsimiles, equivalent to a Boeing 747's carrying capacity as measured in typewritten pages every fraction of a second, and truly unlimited. All for a modest monthly sum.

Sounds too good to be true? Well...thee is one thing. In this age 'truly unlimited' doesn't mean anything anymore, so as to how much you're actually getting or paying, you'll have to see.

I guess I'm saying, nice marketing Surf Air - nick it from a telco?

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