Want safe, convenient, private travel? Costco has a solution – its new Wheels Up private aviation membership. For $17,500 a year, Wheels Up provides members with access to private air travel via one of the world’s largest owned and managed fleets which offers everything from light aircraft to large-cabin jets. Wheels Up manages a fleet of more than 300 plans, and it partners with other companies to get access to another 1,250 aircraft.
With a Wheels Up membership, year-round availability is guaranteed, and members can book flights with as little as 24 hours’ notice. Flights are available to and from major U.S. cities, though Costco doesn’t specify which cities those are.
Additional perks with a private aviation membership
Other perks available through the Wheels Up private aviation membership include the following:
- A $3,500 Costco Shop Card
- $4,000 flight credit (The $17,500 fee does not cover the cost of flights.)
- Access to shared flights, empty-leg hot flights, shuttle flights and the community, an online, members-only forum
- Invitations to Signature and regional Wheels Down events
- Exclusive member benefits including a one-year complimentary Inspirato membership for luxury vacations
- Cross-platform benefits with Delta Airlines
Members can pay for their flights as they go or purchase a Fund Program directly through Wheels Up, the private aviation company that offers and administers the Wheels Up membership program. There are no minimum hours, and members pay the upfront price of each trip. Flights are priced dynamically and, 300 days of the year, they have a capped hourly rate.
Wheels Up's membership options
Costco’s partner, Wheels Up, offers three different private aviation membership options: Connect, Core and Business. Each have different price points, initiation fees, annual dues, and perks. It looks like Costco is offering the Core membership which has a one-time initiation fee of $17,500. After that, annual dues are $8,500 for four lead passengers. The least expensive package is $2,995 for the first year and $2,495 per year thereafter for two lead passengers. The most expensive package is $29,500 for the first year, and $14,500 thereafter for six lead passengers.
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Health and safety
In the days of COVID, Costco and Wheels Up want members to know that their health and safety is important. Their health and safety measures are explained in Wheels Up’s Safe Passage program online.
“Rest assured, the health and safety of Wheels Up Members, customers, pilots, and employees is the company's top priority. With Safe Passage, its enhanced safety and health program, Wheels Up has expanded its guidelines in response to COVID-19 and today's ongoing health concerns. Its crew members are also employing Collective GO™, a comprehensive COVID-19 screening, testing, and monitoring solution developed by Collective Health,” says Costco on their website.
This private aviation membership program does not appear to be new, but through a partnership with Costco, Wheels Up now has access to Costco’s nearly 100 million members. Because of the price point, this membership is going to appeal to a very small subset of Costco customers. It is a great idea in theory, but only individuals and companies who can afford to travel frequently will benefit from such a program. Over the last five years or so, companies like Rise and Surf Air have offered similar programs. Surf Air eventually acquired Rise and still seems to be in business, but we don’t hear about it often. For the right market, a private aviation membership might be a deal. For most of us, this is a pipe dream.