It is not unusual for people to take a flight or two to keep their status when a collection year is expiring. However, a Danish man took it to the extreme, flying 22 airBaltic flights in five days to gain VIP status with the airline.
airBaltic is an airline that places a heavy emphasis on the environment. In fact, the airline’s CEO, Martin Gauss, previously told Simple Flying that the airline’s commitment ranges from transitioning to less polluting Airbus A220 fleet, to changing plastic cups for glasses in its offices. As such, it came as a surprise that the airline glorified a man who took 22 flights over five days in order to gain status with the airline.
A Danish gentleman named Morten Nielsen was 21 flights short of obtaining VIP status with Latvian based carrier airBaltic. In order to secure VIP status, which Mr Nielsen wanted for its lounge access, 60 flights must be flown in a year. At 39 flights, Mr Nielsen said “I was almost VIP, I just needed 21 flights.”
airBaltic celebrated the achievement by inviting Mr Nielsen to try out the company’s Boeing 737 simulator at its Riga training base. This is something that Simple Flying was fortunate enough to try during the summer, with varying successes at landing.
The ecological problem
While it makes sense for those who are only a few flights off of attaining a status tier to fly for the sake of points, 22 flights does seem a little extreme. Mr Nielsen claimed that he was almost at VIP status despite only being 2/3s of the total way, and 1/3 of the way from the previous tier.
Excluding the cost of the flights, one has to question the responsibility of the flights, and whether it was really worth it. The airBaltic CEO, Martin Gauss, previously told me,
“We have light management, we have air conditioning management, we want to go for electric ground operations. So we’re going to do a lot of things on sustainability to reduce our footprint further and I think other airlines do the same.”
However, by promoting Mr Nielsen’s trip airBaltic is taking a small step backward. While it is surely an achievement for Mr Nielsen, I don’t believe that it is the best idea for the airline to publicly reward the endeavor. I don’t agree with Mr Nielsen being rewarded by the airline, however, by generating publicity airBaltic is potentially incentivizing others to better the achievement.
We contacted airBaltic to ask for their take on the story given the current popularity of the flight shame movement. The airline responded with the following statement:
Being a frequent flyer and aviation enthusiast, the passenger filmed on the VIP Run video wanted to reach the VIP status to enjoy its benefits, which make the travelling more comfortable. This enhanced attempt to reach the VIP status was his initiative, and he covered all the costs for the flight tickets on his own.
As one of the most innovative airlines globally, airBaltic is strongly committed to reduce its impact on the environment. Airline has carried out various projects with the aim of increasing fuel efficiency and decreasing CO2 and other emissions.
The airline went on to add:
Currently, however, airBaltic does not offer a voluntary carbon offset option to its passengers and is not investing in carbon offset projects.
airBaltic continues to modernize its fleet, introducing a single Airbus A220-300 type fleet by 2023. Currently, it is the greenest commercial aircraft available, as Airbus A220-300 is the first aircraft with fully transparent life-cycle declaration, helping to reduce CO2 and NOX emissions by 20% and 50% respectively. The new aircraft saves up to 22% fuel.
Do you think that Mr Nielsen’s flights were responsible? Would you fly 22 times just to obtain frequent flyer status? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!