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Surf Air accuses former partner of scheming to take over airline

Surf Air accuses former partner of scheming to take over airline
Passengers fly on a SurfAir flight to San Carlos, Calif., from Hawthorne on March 19, 2015. SurfAir, an all-you-can-fly membership airline, has filed a lawsuit against its former partner, Encompass. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The war of words between a Santa Monica-based membership airline and its former business partner heated up this week, with a new accusation that the ex-partner was scheming to take over the airline.

The feud involves Surf Air, an all-you-can-fly membership airline, and the operator of its airplanes in California, Encompass Aviation, based in Hawthorne.

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The dispute began last month when Encompass filed a lawsuit, claiming Surf Air is financially distressed and owes Encompass $3.1 million for its services.

Surf Air fired back this week, accusing Encompass Aviation in a court filing of providing poor service and of reaching out to Surf Air’s lender and lessor in a scheme to take over operations of Surf Air.

“Given this treachery and intentional interference by Encompass with two of Surf Air’s key financial partners, and because of ongoing poor management of services and lack of financial transparency, Surf Air decided to, and did, terminate Encompass,” according to a document filed in response to the suit.

Although Encompass filed its lawsuit in New York, Surf Air argues that the dispute should be settled in a California court.

Steve Harfst, founder and chief executive of Encompass, said the charges are “baseless and without merit,” adding “we’ll see them in court.”

Surf Air has replaced Encompass with Hawthorne-based Advanced Air to fly its planes in California. Surf Air has also acquired a Texas counterpart and announced plans to expand to nearly a dozen new destinations.

The airline flies to 15 destinations in California and Texas, with monthly membership fees starting at $1,950. The carrier also operates a similar service in Europe, flying members among 10 cities, including Geneva; Munich, Germany; Milan, Italy; and Brussels.

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