January 8, 2009

Starbucks, despite recession, buys a jet

U.S. coffee retailer Starbucks topped off a year in which it closed 616 locations with the purchase of a new corporate jet, the company said.

Starbucks spokeswoman Deb Trevino said the company ordered the Gulfstream 550 three years ago and considered canceling the purchase. But the company said canceling the order was too expensive, the Seattle Times reported Thursday.

Among its first stops as part of Starbucks' fleet of three corporate jets, the Gulfstream 550 spent two weeks in Hawaii, flown there for a combination business and personal trip, Trevino said.

Bob Zuskin, at Washington, D.C. consultancy Jet Perspectives estimated the cost of the jet at about $45 million. Canceling the purchase could have cost $5 million or more, he said.

Private jet prices are down in part because corporations are selling their fleets, he said.

Viewed as an executive luxury in good times and an insult during a recession, executives from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler flew corporate jets to Washington to ask for billions in federal support last year, a move some considered a slap in the face of taxpayers.

There's a witch hunt against corporate aviation in American right now, Zuskin said.