Stepping off a plane in the middle of a winery may feel like something the ultra-luxury world portrayed in the HBO show "Succession," but it will soon become commercial reality as new airlines seek to carve out different niches in the luxury travel market.
In January 2023, a new airline named Invivo Air is set to launch its first 'wine flight' -- a two-hour journey between New Zealand's Auckland and Queenstown with an eight-step wine tasting at 18,000 feet, aerial views of the country's wine fields, and a 24-hour tour of local wineries before getting flown back to the country's most populous city.
Travelers will stay at the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa and also dine at local restaurants known specifically for their food and wine pairings.
The World's First Winery Airline
Officially launched in March 2022, Invivo Air is a new offshoot of Invivo Wines. The New Zealand wine company quickly raised $2 million NZD (roughly $1.27 USD and the maximum allowed in the country for equity crowdfunding) in 2015. It expanded quickly and now has numerous wineries in the south of the country.
Co-founders Rob Cameron and Tim Lightbourne had the idea for the first "winery airline" to unite both wine and travel lovers and offer a luxury experience at a price that people can afford.
"We're thrilled to open Invivo Air to the public and deliver a truly unique experience for those that come on board," Cameron told news outlets of the flight. "We'll be tasting some stunning drops in some truly epic locations."
The idea clearly has legs as tickets going for around $730 USD per person sold out just a few hours after the inaugural flight was announced to the public. More flights along the same route are set to be announced soon.
So How Much is That Ticket to New Zealand?
New Zealand has also had one of the world's strictest pandemic responses -- the country only reopened its borders to non-residents in the summer of 2022 -- and is only now starting to revive the tourism industry that makes up a significant portion of its economy.
The wine flight, Invivo founders said, is meant to stimulate both local tourism and attract foreigners -- doing something remotely comparable in the United States would require going private at the comparable price.
"It's been a tough period of time, particularly for our bars and restaurant customers in both the North and South Island heavily reliant on local tourism," Lightbourne said. "Running a flight to the South Island is a way that we can show the public the country is open again for domestic tourism, and at the same time support some of those who have had a particularly tough time of it."
Despite similar flights not being available in the U.S., getting oneself to New Zealand is not going to be cheap in the coming year. A recent estimate by American Express Global Business Travel predicts that economy-class flights to Australia and New Zealand will rise by 4.7% between 2022 and 2023.
Having a sleeper seat on a fourteen+ hour flight will be even more of a privilege in the near future, as business flights to the continent are expected to see an especially steep hike of 19.4% in 2023.
Demand for global travel, however, is on the rise despite less than optimistic economic conditions as many hope to take long-awaited trips put off for years by the pandemic.