When Jeff Potter first started working for Denver’s Frontier Airlines in 1995, it had about five airplanes. When he left the company in 2007, having served as chief executive since 2002, it had more than 60.
Potter, who was announced as Surf Air’s new chief executive last week, hopes to similarly grow the Santa Monica “all-you-can-fly” startup airline. He replaces co-founder Wade Eyerly, who resigned as chief executive.
The change comes as part of the company’s “evolution,” according to a memo sent to Surf Air members.
“We are extremely excited for the future and welcome the new leadership team as we begin the next step to grow Surf Air into the company we all know it can become,” the memo stated.
Launched last year, Surf Air, which has 434 members who pay around $1,600 a month for an unlimited number of flights on its fleet of three airplanes, is expanding its service area as part of that next step.
The airline, which is marketed to tech executives, flies out of Hawthorne and Burbank Bob Hope airports to San Carlos Airport in the Bay Area and Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
Shortly before Eyerly resigned, the company announced new service to Las Vegas and Truckee. The Las Vegas route will start March 21 and flights to Truckee, near Lake Tahoe, will start May 2, pending government clearance.
“It’s a great model,” Potter said. “A lot of credit goes to the founding members. Our immediate focus is to continue to grow and expand our footprint in the Southwest region.”
In addition to its new routes, the airline hopes to add such destinations as San Diego, Napa, Palm Springs, Orange County and Sacramento.
Potter said his other goal is to raise another round of funding, though he did not disclose how much. The company had raised $11 million as of June.
Jack Keady, president of Playa del Rey airline consultancy Keady Transportation Consulting, said funding will be one of the biggest challenges Potter will face.
“An airline has never been able to achieve critical mass with less than $20 million of funding,” he said. “Many have gone under with $150 million. Big airlines lose money and a small airline with startup costs will have challenges.”
Still, Keady said that Potter could help going forward.
“He’s got credibility,” he said. “He’s an airline guy operating the thing. He’s not going to make some boneheaded mistakes.”
Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008.
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