America’s favorite wholesale store may be best known for its bulk goods, free samples and $1.50 hot dogs, but Costco is also the best when it comes to gift shopping. When you’re struggling to come up with a gift for that person who has everything, look no further than the cavernous warehouses.
For the bon vivant, there’s Costco’s $30 3-liter Kirkland Signature Prosecco. For kids, there’s a “Hobbit”-esque outdoor playhouse that gives off major Shire vibes. For the doomsday planner, there’s a range of emergency food kits like the bucket of freeze-dried chili that lasts 30 years.
And for the traveler? There’s a private jet membership. You’ll find them tucked under the electronics section of Costco’s website, or possibly in store on the wall of gift cards.
At $17,499.99 for a one-year membership, it’s not the most wallet-friendly gift idea this holiday season and not actually a discount on the normal membership price, but Costco does throw in a $3,500 Costco Shop Card, plus a $4,000 flight credit with your purchase.
The jets aren’t powered by Issaquah-based Costco but by Wheels Up, a private jet charter company that offers members private charter flights at hourly rates.
Here’s what you get with your purchase: Wheels Up promises nationwide availability guaranteed every day, even with short notice. The Costco-promoted membership includes dedicated account management to help you plan those flights, whether you’re traveling home for the holidays or taking a Costco-booked vacation. The fleet of about 100 Wheels Up aircraft feature in-flight Wi-Fi, Gogo services for calls and texts, a lavatory and refreshment center.
At this time, there are no reviews on the Costco product, but if there were any, we would guess they would say something like, “Throw on a pair of Kirkland jeans and get yourself to the nearest regional airport. This membership is a dream.”
Perks aside, the real draw for private air travel during the coronavirus pandemic is to address safety concerns.
Wheels Up advertises an enhanced safety and health program called Safe Passage, which covers things such as coronavirus testing and screening employees. Every 30 days, the aircraft are treated with an antimicrobial shield that protects against viruses. They are also sanitized between each flight. Instead of a HEPA filter, the pressurization system of each aircraft fully changes cabin air with fresh air every three minutes.
Thanks to the pandemic, concepts like Wheels Up are on the rise because of those health and safety measures. Travelers who can afford the option may seek it out more to avoid coronavirus risks of flying with the masses.
Sentient Jet has had record sales during the pandemic, reporting $40 million in sales in October. “Right now we’re pushing towards 60 percent of our sales going to new clients,” Sentient Jet Chief Executive Andrew Collins says. “I’m getting calls from people that have said, ‘I don’t fly privately or haven’t in the past, but I’m going to moving forward.’ “
This new wave of semiprivate jet memberships also appears to be making the category of travel more affordable. JSX offer 30-person flights, with no middle seats and no overhead bins, starting at $99 per person (pets fly free). With memberships starting at $199 per month, Surf Air offers on-demand and scheduled flights of about eight passengers on average.
For those who get super into private jets, you can even get married in one. This year, Air Charter Service launched a two-hour “Weddings in the Sky” experience that starts at $28,000 for couples scrambling to come up with an alternative for their canceled wedding plans. Too expensive for your nuptial needs? The company’s “Just the Two of Us” elopement package starts at $18,000.