Costco has partnered with charter airline Wheels UP to sell a private jet pass. Photo / Twitter; CapitalTransGrp
It’s been just over two months since the American bulk-buying superstore first landed in New Zealand, and Kiwis are already in love.
At the opening in September, one shopper told the Herald they had flown across the country from Invercargill to be the first through the Auckland megastore’s door.
From toilet paper to a $150,000 3.02-carat diamond ring, there’s little the 14,800m² warehouse doesn’t stock.
However, you might be surprised to hear that Costco once sold a private jet membership scheme.
The wholesalers entered into an agreement with charter airline Wheels Up in 2020.
On the shelves among the gift cards for mundane things like e-books and vacation packages was a tempting offer of a $US17,499.99 ($28,350) a year subscription.
Not really offering much in the way of a discount, it came with a $3500 store card and a $4000 flight credit to sweeten the deal.
The US buyer service promised short-notice private charter travel from anywhere in the States with a fleet of 100 aircraft. The card “guarantees the availability of aircraft nationwide up to 365 days a year”.
Visited @Costco. You have Rolex and Private Jet clubs for sale. The middle class is thriving under President Trump. pic.twitter.com/DnaqymxmGK
— Aaron Catalano (@CapitalTransGrp) June 8, 2017
Although, if you actually wanted to use any of these planes, it will cost you extra.
In an interview with Fox Business CEO Kenny Dichter, he said that a flight from Washington to Boston will cost you $5000 or $12000 in Florida. Although the price was for all eight seats and during free travel, you’re unlikely to get a Costco discount.
The service also offered bare leg repositioning flights from $296 for the entire plane. However, the real draw of charter membership was access to private airstrips and air travel at a time when many Americans were concerned about using public transportation.
Launched in the middle of the pandemic, the partnership with Wheels Up aimed to capitalize on the trend for more passengers flying on private aircraft.
In response to passenger concerns, the charter service began offering Covid-19 screening, testing and monitoring long before commercial ships had uniform screening and guidelines. Telling Fox that he wanted to bring “charter travel to the masses,” Dichter’s service failed to find mass appeal through the wholesaler.
On Costco’s website, reviews were mixed with an average rating of 3.7 stars. Ralph from Portland, Oregon said it was “far from price competitive.”
Despite heavy selling and lots of publicity, the partnership was called off last year. There do not appear to be any plans to expand into New Zealand.
However, despite the odd and short-lived partnership between a charter airline and Costco, private jet charters saw a boost during the Pandemic.
JSX launched its US members airline, offering small jet charters from $99, and $199-a-month Surf Air was bought by Southern Airways earlier this year as a private jet access company charter and scheduled across America.
Although it is noted that none of these private charter companies sell “off the shelf” memberships in Costco.