Costco Wholesale is now offering annual memberships to private flight membership program Wheels Up on Costco.com. Offered at $17,500.00 for an annual Core membership, the purchaser is awarded a bonus $3,500 Costco Cash Card E-Voucher, and a $4,000 flight credit.
Core Membership regular price for individuals is $17,500 annually and corporations $29,500 annually (annual dues starting second year are then $8,500 for individuals and $14,500 for corporations), plus a fixed hourly price for each hour flown – the cost per hour of getting on the King Air is $4,695 per hour, light jets are $5,795 per hour, midsize jets including the Citation Excel/XLS is $7,695 per hour and Super-midsize jets including their Citation X is $9,295 per hour according to a report from the private aviation industry resource.
By comparison charter rates for the King Air 350 average around $2,000 per hour in the US including fees and surcharges, and charter rates for light jets average around $4,600 per hour, the Citation Excel/XLS average $3,850 per hour round-trip and around $6,000 per hour one-way, according to Rick Colson, president of New Flight Charters, a nationwide leader with a best price guarantee on every flight. The Wheels Up program may be advantageous for those who (1) are frequent users – more than 150 hours per year to bring the total costs per hour down, and who (2) usually fly one-way flights or round trips over many days, according to Colson. “A membership fee does not mean better hourly rates or reliability in the current market. Look at your historical or expected usage and compare costs as a whole or trip by trip,” he says.
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Of note on a comparison basis, the King Air 350i requires 18% more flight time than light jets for the same trip, therefore flight costs increase 18% to $5,068 on trip cost comparison basis to light jets.
Costco is offering the lower-level Wheels Up Connect Membership at $1,994.99. Featured are market rate pay-as-you-go private flight bookings, potential shared flight opportunities and Wheels Up Signature Events.
The Wheels Up fleet includes King Air 350i turboprops, Citation Excel/XLS midsize jets, and Citation X super-midsize jets, plus access to a variety of light, midsize, super-mid and heavy jets, Costco offers the Wheels Up memberships in their section for Holiday, Gifts & Tickets > Hotels & Tourist Attractions.
– First published in 2015, last updated 11/15/20 to reflect Wheels Up price adjustments –
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