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British Man Trades Frequent Flyer Miles for Space Shot 130

lvmoon writes "Start saving up your airline miles. Alan Watts, a British businessman, was able to use his 2,000,000 frequent flyer miles for a space flight, a ticket aboard a 2009 Virgin Galactic space flight." From the article: "Electrician Alan Watts said he flew to and from the United States on Virgin Atlantic flights more than 40 times in the past six years, earning him enough miles to take the trip into space with Virgin's space wing, London's The Sun newspaper reported Friday. The trip cost 2 million frequent flier miles, compared to the 90,000 miles required for a first-class flight from London to New York." Besides being funny, does this say anything about space travel in the 21st century? Is space is no longer the final frontier? I'm pretty sure Roddenberry didn't have frequent flier miles in mind when he came up with the Enterprise.
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British Man Trades Frequent Flyer Miles for Space Shot

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  • by Ckwop ( 707653 ) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Saturday September 30, 2006 @04:32AM (#16256841) Homepage

    He's lucky too because he's got this free ticket in before the much expected hyperinflation in the air-miles currency.

    This surprises some people but in fact, air-miles are a form of currency. They can be exchanged for real world goods and services and therefore have an intrinsic real world value. The problem is that the vast majority of air-miles go unspent. Since a constantly increasing amount of currency is chasing a limited amount of goods the value of the currency is constantly falling.

    The fact that this guy was able to accrue two million air-miles doing a normal job tells you that inflation has already crippled the currency. I soon expect air-miles to be practically worthless.

    Simon

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Now if only there were a conversion from EVE's ISK, to Air Miles!
    • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @05:45AM (#16257067)
      An interesting theory... however, twelve years ago I was investigating various ways of doing product promotions and had looked quite a bit at frequent flyer promotions. At the time I could buy frequent flyer miles at eight cents a piece (with substantial discounts for VERY large purchases), and generally they applied towards tickets in the ten cent per mile price. (25,000 frequent flier miles for a round trip ticket of approximately $2500 peak value -- the average seat cost being based on the highest available fare for that seat type)

      At two million frequent flier miles for a $200k ticket, they gave him ten cents value a piece today, as well. I haven't looked, but I would guess the cost to buy miles hasn't changed either (or even kept pace with inflation). What has changed is discount airlines pulling prices down, so the disconnect between the price you're "paying" for FF miles and the vlaue you get back isn't as good since its trivial to find non-peak price seats on flights.
      • You could have pulled a David Phillips [snopes.com] and found a way to get tons of miles for a mere $0.0018 per mile (after a tax deduction; $0.0025/mile before).
      • ... generally they applied towards tickets in the ten cent per mile price. (25,000 frequent flier miles for a round trip ticket of approximately $2500 peak value -- the average seat cost being based on the highest available fare for that seat type

        But that's a bogus comparision: Frequent flyer miles can't be redeemed to get the equivalent of the highest avavilable fare for that
        seat type. They can only be redeemed to get the junk seats that are left over on the unpopular schedules, usually on an indirect
    • he wasn't doing an ordinary job... he's the managing director of a small electronics firm...
    • by mythras ( 997054 )
      Yeah, but I bet they still will black out Christmas and New Years, bastards.
    • I don't consider any job that requires 40 transatlantic flights in 6 years to be "normal."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MightyYar ( 622222 )
        That's only like 7 a year. If you were in the semiconductor industry, you'd probably do that number of visits to Asia, where the best trip time you can hope for is the 18-hour Newark to Singapore flight on Singapore Airlines. When I started my job with that kind of travel, it only paid about $40,000/year, and the techs (who travel more) made even less... we certainly considered the job to be "normal" :)
      • That's a lot but not that huge of an amount either. I made 10 transatlantic flights in 2 years as a software engineer. If you work in the semiconductor industry in the US there's a lot of travel to Japan, Singapore, Korea, China, most of Europe where the fabs are. Management could easily surpass 40 in 6 years.
        • Interesting! I think I'll avoid working in the semiconductor industry then :) I don't mind travel, but last summer I spent 21 hours in the air in a 24 hour period and just couldn't imagine doing that more than once every few years.

          Thanks for the expanded perspective on frequent flyers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RealGrouchy ( 943109 )

      Since a constantly increasing amount of currency is chasing a limited amount of goods the value of the currency is constantly falling.

      I disagree. Once a mile is spent, it ceases to circulate in the system.

      Similarly, miles are created only when money is spent on a ticket, roughly on scale with the value of the ticket. One would expect that the price of the ticket includes a profit margin that can be applied towards any miles which are redeemed.

      Further, the cost of goods sold (at least for profitable compan

      • by Ucklak ( 755284 )
        I have yet to spend any miles and one airline that I had miles with removed them as I haven't had any travel with them for 3 years.

        Furthermore, miles don't have a 100% return rate just like retail/restaurant gift cards don't have a 100% return rate.

        Someone I consult with owns a few restaurants and offer gift cards. The return rate is 65-70%.

        Some of the /.ers would then list:

        1. Open Restaurant
        2. ??????
        3. Sell gift cards
        4. Profit!!!
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Ucklak ( 755284 )

      I soon expect air-miles to be practically worthless.

      Aren't they already worthless?

      At least for the states, you can only use them within the continental US, you can only use them when it's not busy or overbooked, you can't reserve seats with them and have to use them on no-shows. You may be lucky and be able to use them internationally only on certain dates.

      To me at least, it's far better to spend $50-$600 on a ticket than to deal with the hassle of those rules.

      I friend and I were meeting in Hawaii a couple

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        What are you talking about? Most frequent flier accounts now don't have any restrictions like that. You don't need to fly standby. What a wierdo.
        • by Ucklak ( 755284 )
          Delta:

          Starting December 31, 2006, we're modifying the above policy and miles will expire after two years of account inactivity. Mileage balances of members who have had no SkyMiles activity within the last two calendar years (2005 and 2006) will expire on Dec. 31, 2006.

          And Delta was the airline that wouldn't let my friend use miles to fly to Hawaii.

          American Airlines:
          As of January 1, 2000, if your account has no qualifying activity in any 36-month period, all mileage credit in the account will expire
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by IainMH ( 176964 )
      Branson is a master publicist.

      I bet he asked his airline team 'who has the most airmiles?' and set the tarrif at that price point.
  • Priceless ! Without spending a single cent, he is flying off to Space: A frontier am sure ALL of us slashdotters have seen only on TV.

    Now, instead of making fun of his name, his parents, his loong nose and cribbing about Virgin, let us behave like adults and congratulate him for being the first tourist to exchange miles for space. (literally).

    Way to go Watts !

    • I want to know if they will give him frequent flyer points for the Virgin Galactic flight.

      Calculated vertically, of course.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by not_a_bot ( 633300 )
      It's terrific and way beyond cool. As a former frequent flier, I'm thrilled that somebody has actually gotten something useful for their frequent flier miles besides more travel. Let's be real here. After the first couple of flights, the glamour of frequent travel wears off.

      The last thing you want after spending 50 weeks a year out of town is to be more out of town. No matter how cool the place that you are going to is. Midnight flights, the disruption of your home life, the fact you don't actually get
  • by C10H14N2 ( 640033 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @05:33AM (#16257031)
    2M miles? 40 trips? US->UK? WTF?

    Considering a circumnavigation of the equator is only 25k miles and London->Los Angeles is only about 5500 miles, it would take a LAX-LHR round-trip every two weeks without fail for six years to truly earn all that in real air miles. Obviously dude got most of that mileage by racking up credit-card miles as no sane person, regardless of business requirement, would keep up a travel schedule that ridiculous for that long without a break.
    • by flithm ( 756019 )
      FF Miles, or Air Miles, or AeroMiles, etc, are not a one to one mapping between distance travelled and point earned. Nor are they redeemed for a one to one mapping between point miles and free travel miles. There is some relationship between the two, but in the end it's pretty arbitrary.

      There's things like bonus miles... you know fly right now and earn 10x the air miles! Plus yeah then there's ways to earn air miles by purchasing things.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dorceon ( 928997 )

      no sane person, regardless of business requirement, would keep up a travel schedule that ridiculous for that long without a break.

      Try http://www.flyertalk.com/ [flyertalk.com]. Some of those people fly that much just to earn the miles.

      Considering a circumnavigation of the equator is only 25k miles and London->Los Angeles is only about 5500 miles, it would take a LAX-LHR round-trip every two weeks without fail for six years to truly earn all that in real air miles.

      By around the fifth round trip he'd earn elite status

    • I was surprised myself, about the the whole miles-buissness.

      But than i looked into the papers of my airline, and there is TONS of stuff that boosts the miles.
      Going first class? ==miles*5
      Spending money for extra stuff(reservations, ect)? +xk miles bonus
      using a senator card? Getting miles shoved into your ass for sneezing (figurtively spoken. IIRC, the highest bonus multipliers were like 10 or 15 or so. Like a pinball machine)
  • His last name is WATTs and he is a, fellow ELECTRICIAN. How awesome. I am an elctrician also. It looks like I need to start flying virgin air to get the 2 million frequent flyer mile electrician special. That is just awesome.
  • by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @05:41AM (#16257057)
    This story is from "The Sun".

    That newspaper is the lowest of the low, the gutter press. Their normal faire consists of entirely fabricated stories and their conduct is entirely unethical. Do not place ANY credence to stories printed in this paper.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I also read the article in the Guardian and the Independent

      Much more dependable papers, but commonly read by pretenious middle class left wing wannabes who love the smell of their own farts.
      • by eipgam ( 945201 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @11:02AM (#16258539)
        Reminds me of a quote from "Yes, (Prime) Minister":

        Jim Hacker: The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Times is read by people who actually do run the country. The Daily Mirror is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country. The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

        Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about people who read the Sun.

        Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country as long as she's got big tits.

    • To put it into context, its owned by Murdoch (like the Times), so think of the Sun as a slightly more intellectual version of Fox News.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by RealGrouchy ( 943109 )
        To put it into context, its owned by Murdoch (like the Times), so think of the Sun as a slightly more intellectual version of Fox News.


        They're both Rupert Murdoch. Just because the Sun has a British accent doesn't mean that they're more intellectual. Do you fall for this one at parties, too?

        - RG>
    • by ronanbear ( 924575 ) on Saturday September 30, 2006 @08:13AM (#16257569)
      If you don't like the Sun why don't you read the story in the Independent http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_techno logy/article1771872.ece [independent.co.uk] Or maybe Xinhua http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-09/29/conte nt_5155160.htm [xinhuanet.com] ? What about the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5388482.stm [bbc.co.uk] ?
    • by IainMH ( 176964 )
      The sun is probably the most influential single newspaper on the entire planet.

      1. It got Tony Blair elected. 3 times. Why do you think Tony addresses the NewsCorp annual dinner?

      2. The markets move to what is mentioned on The Sun's city news page. Why? Because the barrow-boy traders who shift billions around the economy each day read it on the can before the day's trading starts.
    • Oh come on...

      Yes, it's gutter press (tabloid), yes (even worse) it's Murdoch, but "entirely fabricated"? "Do not place ANY credence"? I think you're confusing it with the Sport...

      The Sun may spin the news to a pro-Murdoch agenda, they may pander to the more distasteful aspects of its readership (xenophobia etc), they may deliver their news in little words of one syllable for the not-very-bright, and they may intersperse their news with boobies and tiresome "celebrity" friffery. But they don't "normal
  • summary asks : does this say anything about space travel in the 21st century?

    In 21st century, one would accumulate frequent flier miles from 40 trips to space to earn a single trip from US to UK.
  • I been saving for over 10 years, waiting to find something good to spend my air miles on. So, Mr Branson, what can you offer me for my 2,537?
  • I hardly think that using frequent flyer miles to paddle around in near earth orbit is cause to lose all sense of wonder at the vastness of space and the endless possibilities that it represents.
  • Its cool and all but these are suborbital flights I don't know about you but when I first think of space flight I think of being in space for a hell of a lot more than a few minutes. Its a great first step but sounds more like an extended amusement park ride than actual tourism to me its as if you were to go on a cruise to the Caymans, they dropped you off on the coast for 5 minutes then you had to get back on and leave. If anything I am just happy that all these wealthy people are paying the first adopte
  • "Besides being funny, does this say anything about space travel in the 21st century? Is space is no longer the final frontier? I'm pretty sure Roddenberry didn't have frequent flier miles in mind when he came up with the Enterprise."

    Perhaps not, but what he had in mind when he came up with Enterprise was space travel at speeds that take you to the stratosphere of a planet
    in a another quadrant of our galaxy within a few years, not flights to earth's stratosphere.

    I think your statement may be more suitable 30
  • I'm pretty sure Roddenberry didn't have frequent flier miles in mind when he came up with the Enterprise.


    No, but Kirk had plenty of "frequent flier miles" with every alien female he could get his hands on, if you know what I mean ..
  • Since I joined the Fortran Standardisation Committee in 1999, I flew about 15 times to the continent on the Left Side of the Atlantic, and I consider myself an *in*frequent flyer.
    • I learn something every day. There's a Fortran Standardisation Committee..? And it's still running? :) Respect!
  • So he got 2 million frequent flyer miles from 40 trips. He could get a first class trip for 90,000 miles. So he could have got 22 free flight. More than one free flight per two paid ones. Are the frequent flyer systems really that good?
    • by oneiron ( 716313 )
      It depends where the round-trips are to/from and what class of service he purchases. A london-sydney roundtrip could concievably earn you around 40k miles if you purchase a first class ticket and maintain 'elite' status with the airline. Considering the cost of a trip like that, the free trip for 90k miles would be worth only a fraction of the paid trips...
  • Is space is no longer the final frontier?

    Well, unless you found another frontier beyond space, I'm gonna say no.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    who is going to be first to join the 60-mile-high club?
  • The Rwomulans are powerwing up phaserws! They arwe saying they want ourw firwst class inflight mowie database!

    Scotty! I ... want you ... to ... prepare to beam up our ... 20th century ... comedy ... collection!

    Captain! I kinnae give 'em "The Waterboy"! She'll blow!

    Fascinating! Captain, I believe they are flying the new ultra high seat density birds of prey with 15% less legspace. I thought only Cherry Galactic had them!

    Dammit, don't do it, Jim! At least ask them for their sealed peanut bags. I'm run

  • Besides being funny, does this say anything about space travel in the 21st century? Is space is no longer the final frontier? I'm pretty sure Roddenberry didn't have frequent flier miles in mind when he came up with the Enterprise.

    That is 100% wrong. This is exactly what Gene Roddenberry had in mind. For a common person to be able to expiernce the wonders of space. Give props to him, we wouldn't be here without his vision.

    Also... really slashdot...that comment is pure flamebait for this site.
  • I can't wait to trade my frequent launcher parsecs for trips on Virgin Historic's time machines.

    I can show you pix of the trips now if you're improbable enough to stand it.
  • Of course, he'll only be able to go if he books it six months in advance and the flight is on a Tuesday after 8 PM. And he'll have to fly coach (ie: cargo).
  • ...they mean UP.

    rj
  • Is space is no longer the final frontier?

    Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way up to suborbital flight, but that's just peanuts to space.

      -- with apologies to Douglas Adams
  • by Ignorant Aardvark ( 632408 ) <cydeweysNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday September 30, 2006 @01:06PM (#16259419) Homepage Journal
    Don't be pessimistic. The use of frequent flier miles to get a ticket into space means that spaceflight is finally here in a real sense. It's not just for governments anymore.
  • Since if you pay for this flight, and it only goes up 63 miles and back down, it would only accrue the typical minimum 500 mile most airlines give on short flights.

    Now if you were going into orbit, it would be worth paying for because you would earn enough miles for another trip right there. You go a lot of miles on any orbital flight.

    (In fact, it is amusing to point out that while the airline industry likes to point out that air travel is far safer than car travel in terms of deaths per passenger mile, th
  • Don't accept any red shirt offered before the trip.
  • Moo (Score:2, Funny)

    by Chacham ( 981 )
    I wonder what 12 million pepsi points would get.
  • It's not a round-trip ticket.

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