Catch me on Radio 4 at 11am in “Inside the World of the Frequent Flyer”

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EDIT:  The programme is now online and you can listen to it here 

If you came to the Head for Points Christmas party in December you may have met Laurence Grissell from BBC Radio 4.  He was – with our permission – looking for interesting characters to feature in a documentary that he was producing.

The finished programme is now ready and will be broadcast at 11am today.  It is 30 minutes long.

This is how Radio 4 is promoting it:

Up in the air with the frequent flyers who’ll go to extreme lengths to achieve airline status and rack up air miles. Are they playing the system – or is the system playing them? Georgie Glen narrates their stories

Many hardcore frequent flyers will stop at nothing to achieve the privileges which go with airline status, planning convoluted multi-leg journeys to maximise their points. It’s a whole sub-economy – a parallel currency which the airlines control, and which the frequent flyers seek to exploit.

The consequence is a life which is spent perpetually in transit, on airplanes and in airport lounges. We hear what motivates these individuals, what they gain and what they lose from spending so much of their lives up in the air.

I recorded a long segment for the programme but I don’t know how much of it has made the finished cut (if any!).

My contribution should be slightly detached because as a family man I don’t have the time these days to undertake the mileage and tier point runs which are at the heart of the documentary.  I do, of course, understand the economics of the process from both the point of view of the airline and the traveller and that’s probably where I will pop up.  Part of the reason for hiring Anika was to let me escape much of the day-to-day review travel that comes with this job – the next stop for her is Johannesburg – in order to spend more time reading “Captain Underpants” to an eager 6-year old.

If you have something better to do at 11am – like, erm, working – you can listen online via this link after 11.30am.

I am as keen as you to hear the finished version.  It is worth noting that Laurence is a keen traveller and was doing mileage and tier point runs himself well before he decided to make this programme, so I am not expecting a hatchet job.

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  1. Planning my first TP run in November to get gold 😉 to coincidence with the start of my collection period. Flyertalk is very helpful for info 🙂
    Decided gold was the best way to get avios availability for peak school holidays, RFS flights.

    • Are you doing the European TP routes or mix it in with one long haul / short haul?

      • Looking at OTP – los Angeles hoping to add Honolulu on.
        Fare at end of nov in J/F is about £1500 for over 1000 TP’S

        • Hi Yuff, who /what / where is OTP I have done a quick google but can’t imagine you mean?

        • Gavin says:


        • Sounds good, I looked at 4 x EU TP runs for silver but can’t be bothered now.

        • Adam, there are some interesting fares on AY, LHR to OSL for 515 GBP (I’ve found 498 but the’ve disappeared). That nets 240 TP so you should only need 2 runs for silver if you travel a bit on the side. If I remember the flyertalk conversations about it, it’s not the absolute best deal but for a weekend run that doesn’t mess up with jetlag too much, it’s probably good value.

  2. Peter K says:

    I’ve got this virus so won’t be at work but will still be working at 11am helping my mother-in-law move an eight person table (rolls eyes).
    I look forward to listening to this afterwards however!

    • I will be at the funeral of the wife of a friend of mine who has died very quickly from breast cancer (and who is only about a year older than my own wife) just to put all this flying stuff in perspective.

  3. Mikeact says:

    I just love some of the comments about the programme on FT today ! Do take a read if you haven’t already.

  4. OT: Due to abrupt change in plans, I need to make last-minute preparations for a celebration weekend around the Richmond/Kew area this weekend. I have already planned a couple of small things, but I would be very grateful for any hotel / restaurant / spa recommendations around the area, or even a bit further out from London. It’s for me and my partner.

    • The Glasshouse in Kew is a very good restaurant. About 25 minutes down the A316/M3 you’ve got the Four Seasons Hampshire, which has an very good Spa.

      • Thank you very much for the suggestions! I really appreciate it.

      • Lady London says:

        I haven’t been to The Leatherne Bottle at Goring for years. Used to love it for Sunday lunch. Does anyone know if it’s still worth a detour?

        • Lady London says:

          Also didn’t Rob review a very nice hotel at Syon Park which is right in this area, a couple of years ago?

          • I did, it is a very plush Hilton because it was built as a Waldorf Astoria before being downgraded.

    • Vivian says:

      Petersham Nurseries is a good place for lunch. Very nice atmosphere.

    • Craig says:

      Indigo in Kensington is excellent, it’s a few hundred metres from Earls Court tube which is a direct connection to Kew/Richmond.

  5. lev441 says:

    I had a good chat with him for quite a while with Polly and a couple of others – Looking forward to hearing..

    • Yup, I was in that group also.

      • Polly says:

        Yes he was certainly interested in our opinions that evening but.. felt he focused too much on TP runs, and not enough on the normal folks who do it for a hobby, like many of us for instance. He mentioned it being a bit addictive too. But it was only a short half hour. Was wishing those two slowbies would speed up and speak a bit faster so we could get more info!

  6. Anthony Dunn says:

    A “narrator” whose sneering condescension and patronising tone was utterly nauseating. Sadly, it cast a pall over what was otherwise pretty much known to all of us…

    • DaveP says:

      Totally agree with the awful tone of the commentator: patronising in the extreme.
      If she was the CSD on my flight I would want to get off the plane!!

      • Anthony Dunn says:

        If she’d been the CSD on any plane I’ve been on, she’d have had a flea in her ear and told to grow up.

    • RussellH says:

      I found Georgie Glen’s tone quite appropriate for audience the proramme was aimed at. Quietly amusing. TBH the programme was not pitched at reader’s of this site at all – we (were / could have been) the input.

    • Trevor says:

      Totally agree. Does everything have to be trivialised?Why can’t we just have an interesting documentary? I doubt whether any newbie listening knows any more than before about collecting Avios, lounge access with status etc etc. Oh well…

    • Agree with this. Not sure what anyone inside or outside of the “hobby” has learned after listening to that. A missed opportunity I thought – too much trivial fluff, not enough substance.

  7. Oh wow I hate the narrator

  8. Christian got Gold for Life at 38, impressive!

    Presumably its BA? 35k Tier Points?

    • Mr(s) Entitled says:

      Not sure impressive is the word. When one has do to it frequently enough the novelty of travel soon wears thin. My initial reaction is one of sympathy but each to their own.

      • Yea. I find it a bit sad that people spend so much time and money trying to get gold for life. There must be something more constructive they can turn this energy to. Start a business or something.

        • There’s also nothing to prevent BA removing and rescinding their “Gold for life” offer in a few years. It’s happened in other industries where “for life” offers get ditched. Bit of a gamble investing all that time and money in something that might not exist in 10 years time.

          • Speak to those who had BMI ‘Gold for Life’ and got 2 years of BA Gold in exchange ….

  9. Lack of mention of BA has been very weird

    • Graeme says:

      Agreed, I imagine it avoids them having to add “Other airlines are available” each time. Enjoyed hearing of the more extreme point runs and the parellel commentary on FlyerTalk. Can’t convince the OH tier point run are worth it, but she does love her Gold status…

    • RussellH says:

      Not weird at all – there was no reason to mention BA – I am old enough to remember when mentioning the name of a business was a capital offence, and I still dislike it.

    • Then they shouldn’t have kept playing the Flower Duet

      • I had to re-record chunks of mine to remove references to specific airlines.

        • Polly says:

          Yes they wanted to keep it neutral, it seems, but anyone in the know would know it was aimed at BA.

      • I’ve always found it funny that BA’s music was a French Opera song.
        Although obviously, Gilbert and Sullivan is much less relaxing! 😀

  10. sunguy says:

    Information in the programme was quite good for a basic audience, but the tone…oh the tone….

    WTF are the beeb playing at with the tone of that programme….its like the nausiating crud on BBC3….

    • tbh some of BA’s recent ads on the radio have sounded pretty nauseating too

      • sunguy says:

        Problem is (as is with quite a bit of the BBCs output of recent) that they are trying to be too “clever”…..

        Instead of taking it down the narrator line of being pampered and cowtowed to by the airlines and in essence being treated like royalty….why didnt they just present it in the way that Radio 4 is known for – a documentary style, rather than a jokey, p155 take….which is no more suited to Radio 4 than the world at 1 being on Radio 6 music….

        • Michael Jennings says:

          There just isn’t a media organisation in the world that is as patronising and condescending to its audience as the BBC. I despise it beyond words.

  11. RussellH says:

    I forget Rob’s exact wording, but it was along the lines of “our readership even goes up to 70” or something like that. Surely I am not the oldest here??

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