Travel | October 24, 2020 6:48 pm

How Membership-Based Travel Could Change the Art of Going Places

Is this the Soho House of travel?

Zurich Airport During the Coronavirus Crisis
The airport departure area stands devoid of passengers at nearly-empty Zurich Airport during the coronavirus crisis.
Christian Ender/Getty Images

If you’ve been reluctant to return to travel with a pandemic, you’re not alone — not by a long shot. What would it take to make you more confident to fly again in the absence of a vaccine? And, as an added wrinkle, what about if money was no object? A new article by Lauren Sloss in The New York Times explores the rise in popularity of members-only travel services — think Soho House but for air travel and you’re not too far off.

The article describes one such service, Exclusive Resorts, as having “on-site concierge services, flexible cancellation policies and now, new partnerships with both a private jet operator and a private medical service.” The club itself also maintains hundreds of spaces for its members to stay across the world. Another service discussed in the article, Manifest Travel, offers its members the ability to take private flights.

For health-conscious travelers, it’s not hard to see the appeal. That said, the cost of such services is, shall we say, not insignificant. Exclusive’s initiation fee is $150,000, with members required to spend a little over — via the Times‘ calculations — $20,000 annually on travel. It might not cost as much as leasing your own private island, but it’s also not a small number.

Sloss writes that “membership models may be particularly suited to pandemic-era travel,” and makes a convincing case for that argument. But if any kind of air travel becomes a thoroughly exclusive club, that’s also cause for concern. As with so many things during the pandemic, there are few easy answers.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.