BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Residents along the flightpath of Surf Air have noticed fewer flights by the subscription-only airline that uses San Carlos Airport, but the company insists it hasn’t cut back its flight schedule as it fights off lawsuits from creditors.
San Carlos resident Harvey Radin, who lives near the San Carlos airport, told the Post yesterday he’s noticed fewer Surf Air planes flying overhead.
Radin said that a few weeks ago he saw four or five planes during an hour-long bike ride. But over the past four days or so, there have been hours when no planes flew overhead.
Surf Air usually operates 20 flights a day in and out of the San Carlos airport, using distinctive Pilatus PC-12 planes.
Surf Air’s lawyer, Skip Miller, said yesterday that there has been no reduction in the company’s flights despite the legal actions facing the company. Surf Air’s former operator, Encompass, filed a lawsuit against the company in U.S. District Court on June 19 seeking $3.1 million. The lawsuit came four days after Surf Air ended its contact with Encompass.
Encompass’ CEO Steve Harfst had said in a statement that Surf Air was collecting revenue from its customers and spending it “on things other than paying in full for flight operations and aircraft maintenance.”
Surf Air, in a counterclaim filed yesterday, said that over the past year it has paid Encompass nearly $14 million in fees. The counterclaim also said that Encompass often was late providing financial information to Surf Air. For example, Surf Air claims Encompass didn’t submit its August and September 2017 invoices until Dec. 31.
The counterclaim also disputes some of the amounts Encompass charged Surf Air. And Surf Air contends that Encompass has not returned some of its planes.
Miller, the Surf Air attorney, writes in the counterclaim that Encompass “is nothing more than a disgruntled vendor embarking on a smear campaign in an effort to extract money.”
Miller also says that the tax liens — including the $131,000 lien from San Mateo County — are the result of a miscommunication between Encompass and Surf Air. Each company thought the other was paying the taxes, Miller said.
“It’s not an issue,” Miller said of the liens. “We had thought Encompass had paid it, but we will pay it.”
Despite the dispute, Surf Air is still accepting new memberships, starting at $1,950 a month. New members must also pay a one-time $1,000 “initiation fee.”
Surf Air began operating out of the San Carlos Airport in 2012, disrupting many residents who live along the planes’ flightpath (which roughly follows El Camino Real over the Mid-Peninsula). Some Atherton residents at a 2015 meeting said that they can no longer have conversations in their homes because of the planes.
Radin said he sympathizes with those who can’t hear themselves think when Surf Air planes are going overhead. He said he has been in meetings that have been disrupted because of the airplane noise.
“I can appreciate the convenience that the business provides,” Radin said. “But companies need to look at both the convenience it will bring and the impact it will have on people.”