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Costco Once Sold Private Jet Memberships: What You Should Know

When the clock struck midnight and 2020 rolled in, travelers continued to board private jets and commercial airliners seemingly unaware that in a few short months, the world would change drastically and so would the travel industry. Before the end of the new year, however, when travel finally began to resume, Costco announced a partnership with Wheels Up in their bid to offer a new Costco private jet service.

Those eager to return to the skies may have looked at this new service as a great way of getting back into the air, but for others, it warranted a much closer look.

Here’s a deep dive into the Costco private jet membership program and partnership.

What is Costco, and What’s the History Behind It?

For those that have never stepped through the doors of one of these iconic warehouses, Costco is a wholesaler who offers discounted products to those holding an annual membership card. Some of the products they sell are popular among consumers and enticing enough to have shoppers continue to renew their membership every year.

This multi-billion dollar global retailer operates in eight countries. The first location, however, opened in 1976 under the Price Club moniker and was actually a converted airplane hangar in San Diego. A few years later in 1983, the first Costco warehouse opened in Seattle. In 1993, the two companies merged and the rest is history.

Wheels Up: A Brief Glimpse Into the Private Aviation Company

As one of the more recognized private jet providers, Wheels Up has been in operation since 2013. They were one of the first providers to offer a membership model that offered charters on their fleet of King Air 105i turboprop aircraft. By 2014, the company had secured a little more than 1,000 members and added Cessna Citations to their fleet.

Cessna Citation XLS on the tarmac

A Cessna Citation sits on the tarmac.

After acquiring Delta Private Jets, Travel Management Company, Gama Aviation Signature, Mountain Aviation, and a few smaller regional providers, Wheels Up has grown into the second-largest private aircraft operator with NetJets being the largest.

It was around this time that Wheels Up and Costco partnered up to provide travelers with access to an exclusive Costco private jet membership.

What is the Costco/Wheels Up Membership?

In 2020, the private aviation industry was abuzz with the news of this new partnership and that an annual membership was being sold for roughly $17,500. The membership also included a $3,500 Costco shopping credit, a $4,00 flight credit and access to exclusive events.

Like most private jet memberships, the fee only gives travelers the ability to book flights, but doesn’t include the costs of the flights themselves. With Wheels Up as the private jet provider, this means members can book a flight on one of the 300 aircraft in their fleet plus 1,250 partner aircraft and then pay for the charter once the booking has been made.

After thousands of aircraft were grounded due to global health protective measures , this offering was a welcome surprise among the jetset crowd.

How Did the Wheels Up Membership at Costco work?

The Costco jet membership existed solely as a gateway into booking guaranteed flights through Wheels Up’s fleet of aircraft. Once you purchased the membership, you were given guaranteed access to book flights with a capped hourly rate.

However, it appears the partnership no longer exists. There is no information available on either website.

The Pros and Cons of a Private Jet Membership at Costco

A membership at Costco is really popular among shoppers, but does it make sense to book a private jet membership through the wholesale powerhouse?

A Look at the Membership Benefits

The membership came with a few enticing options, like the shopping and travel credit. Here are a few other pros:

  • A capped hourly charter rate
  • Guaranteed aircraft availability
  • A reasonable entry fee at $17,500

The Drawbacks of Purchasing a Costco Private Jet Membership

One of the more notable drawbacks is that this membership will only be cost effective if you fly regularly. While reviewing the Costco private jet membership, Private Jet Card Comparisons reported, “While pay-as-you-go programs are often attractive for folks who aren’t sure how much they will fly, the memberships increase in their cost efficiency the more you fly.”

If your goal is to get a deal on one or two private jet flights a year, the Costco private jet membership isn’t ideal.

How Much Is a Private Jet Card Membership?

In general, jet card memberships aren’t a simple one-size-fits-all fare. Jet card costs depends on a few factors like:

  • The number of hours you purchase. The more hours you buy, the lower the per-hour rate tends to be.
  • The type of aircraft you choose. From sleek turboprops to long-range jets, the size and range of the aircraft can impact the price.
  • The provider and program you select. Different companies offer a variety of memberships, each with its own pricing structure and perks.
  • Flight fees and surcharges. Landing fees, fuel surcharges, and catering costs can add up, especially on longer flights.

What is the Cheapest Private Jet Membership?

The cheapest private jet membership will likely come from a new provider entering the private aviation market or one that lacks the necessary infrastructure to ensure the proper coordination of a flight to keep rates low. It’s important to book charter flights based on safety and not necessarily cost alone. We encourage all potential flyers to take a hard look at the brokers they’re interested in working with to make sure they meet the necessary safety requirements.

The Importance of Working With a Reputable Broker

With every type of aircraft provider, it’s extremely important to work with them directly. It’s also paramount to make sure that provider is reputable and holds appropriate safety accreditations. After all, you’re putting your safety in their hands when you book a jet charter flight with them.

When you book with a reputable broker, you also benefit from their industry relationships. Though multiple providers can access the same carriers, only those with strong relationships will be able to pass along the value those relationships can provide. That makes the provider’s reputation and longevity an important factor to consider.

So Was a Costco Private Jet Membership Worthwhile?

This depends on the consumer. While we aren’t against the idea, we believe travelers should do their due diligence and compare providers before making an investment. It’s also important to read the fine print in every membership agreement to see if the value really is there and what you’ll be required to pay for each flight.

The Soar and Soar Higher Memberships

At Stratos Jet Charters, Inc., we offer two membership options for travelers who want to lock-in hourly rates in an unpredictable market. With fuel prices expected to increase and aircraft availability continuing to decrease, a Stratos Jet Charters, Inc. membership could save you thousands of dollars in travel expenses and keep you in the skies as often as possible.

Learn more

Are you interested in learning more about the Stratos advantage and how it gives you more control over private aircraft selection and spending? Call a private flight advisor to learn more and get started—888-593-9066.

Are you ready to book your best charter flight yet?

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