Virgin Atlantic joins the loyalty Space Race
Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club has become the latest loyalty programme to join the race to put loyal customers into space, following a corporate tie-up between the airline and Sir Richard Branson's forward-thinking space travel company Virgin Galactic.
Members of the Flying Club are to be given the choice of converting their regular airline loyalty miles into Space Miles in order to earn a future trip into space. This privilege has currently only been experienced by a global elite of 444 people (now referred to by many as The 100-Mile High Club).
Of course the redemption level for booking a sub-orbital space flight is high: a total of 2 million Flying Club miles from Virgin Atlantic flights are needed. The Virgin Galactic web site does, however, already have an option for members to book their seats.
Three day experience The trip will include a three day Virgin Galactic Experience that prepares the would-be astronaut for their space experience, including 'G acclimatisation', in the US at the Virgin Galactic Spaceport. The company expects commercial space flights to become popular very quickly, and for the costs to fall dramatically over time from the current US$200,000 level.
Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic, said: "A journey into space seems like a distant dream for many but this deal makes it even more achievable... We've always tried to offer more unusual and fun rewards - like hot air ballooning and white water rafting - alongside our more conventional awards."
Three years hence? The first Virgin Galactic space flight is optimistically expected to take place in 2008, with the company having been formed by Richard Branson's Virgin Group to help develop space tourism for the masses. According to Branson, the company will own and operate privately built spacecraft, modelled on the SpaceShipOne craft. Branson hopes that these craft will bring affordable sub-orbital space tourism to the public.
The space travel reward replaces the previous top reward (a break on Branson's private island of Necker, in the Caribbean) for which the redemption level is set at a mere 1 million miles. But both companies have suggested that this tie-up is the first in a series of initiatives linking Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic, and both hope to announce more joint ventures in first few months of 2006.