Richard Branson’s successful suborbital spaceflight on July 11, 2021, received a huge amount of attention worldwide. The flight was part of the VSS Unity flight-test program. Virgin Galactic says that once commercial operations start, you can cover the entire $250,000 cost of the flight with points from Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program.
Travel blogger Running With Miles reports that 2,000,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points is all it takes. That god-awful amount of points doesn’t guarantee a seat. It is the amount required to participate in a drawing for a seat on a VSS Unity suborbital flight at some future date. The good news for those who are unsuccessful in the drawing is they at least get their points back.
A few years ago, my Delta Air Lines frequent flyer account was flush with about 1.2 million SkyMiles. That was after racking up over 600,000 qualification miles the year before and spending 280,000 SkyMiles for a round-the-world ticket in business class.
Unfortunately, the rules for this offer make accumulating 2,000,000 Flying Club points extremely difficult. Only points earned by flying Virgin Atlantic butt in seat are eligible to be applied to this offer. Points earned from credit card spend or sign-up bonuses, or transferred from credit card programs, or from other accounts are ineligible to be used for this offer.
Running With Miles calculates that it would take 57 round trips in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) from London to Los Angles to accumulate the required points. An average cost for each flight would be about $5800 making the cost of obtaining 2,000,000 points about $333,000 not to mention other travel expenses involved and the time commitment.
That calculation, though, assumes one is starting from scratch. The published terms and conditions do not exclude using points members have already accumulated. Virgin Atlantic can easily identify the points in each member’s account that were earned from flying Virgin. Based on my own experience, I’d say there is a good chance that there are a lot of people who may have 1,000,000 or more Flying Club points in their accounts right now.
What You Get For 2,000,000 Points
The winner of the drawing receives a three-day Virgin Galactic space experience including flight preparation, two-hours of total flight time with at least 5 minutes of weightlessness in space, the feelings of 3Gs of acceleration and travel at more than Mach 3, a custom-made space suit, and selfie opportunities that are out of this world.
Perhaps I’m just jealous but think spaceflight is much too dangerous and important to be treated so… I don’t know. You fill in the blank. A Virgin Galactic test pilot was killed and another seriously injured in a test flight in 2014. It seems unlikely that will be the program’s only fatality. Passengers receive basically no training because in the event of a serious failure, the only thing they can do is bend over and kiss their ass goodbye.
Call 0344 874 7747, and a Virgin Galactic rep will run through all of the offer’s details.
Except for the restrictions on the way points can be earned, this is a comparatively good deal. As airlines transition their programs from award charts with fixed prices for given routes to dynamic pricing that bases the cost of an award ticket on the price charged to paying customers, it is becoming common to see awards in business class that cost hundreds of thousands of points for a single round trip.
It is also good to be able to lock in a price now and avoid the constant inflation for award tickets and program changes that invariably make frequent flyer tickets more expensive in the future. That assumes you win the drawing. Losers aren’t so fortunate. They will get back their 2,000,000 points at some point in the future; however those points will be worth a lot less then than they are today.
I have zero Flying Club points so the cost in time and money of acquiring 2,000,000 of them is not something I’m interested in pursuing. Although I have no plans to do so, it would be easier and cheaper to scrape together $250,000 for a guaranteed seat and not fool with a drawing.
In writing this post, I discovered an easier and cheaper way to have a shot at a Virgin Galactic spaceflight. That will be the next post.
Would you take a ride on the VSS Unity if money or points was not an issue?