Pilot Marc Tacchi is seeing the country the way most Canadians never could — or would.
He is soaring with Air Canada, here, there and everywhere, over and over again. Tacchi is currently a frequent flyer with the airline — a very, very frequent flyer trying to accumulate one million air mile credits, which is equal to 10 roundtrip, executive-class flights to Australia. He aims to do it before the end of November, according to the Canadian Press.
A commercial cargo pilot, Tacchi decided two weeks ago to take Air Canada up on its North America Unlimited Pass offer, which costs the customer $3,500 a month and allows unlimited travel to more than 100 destinations in North America.
“I was in Miami on Monday, I think,” Tacchi told the CP during a brief layover at Vancouver International Airport, where he waited to board one of about 10 return flights a day he’s taking to either Nanaimo or Victoria. “I thought I’d have a problem with customs but the U.S. and Canada Customs people just laughed and thought it was a great idea.”
He has the whole thing figured out, down to the total number of air points he’s racking up each day.
He even manages to spend three nights a week sleeping in his own bed in Vancouver and will have the million points in the bag within 50 days.
“I’m flying about 7,500 miles or points a day,” he explained. “But I hold super-elite status so it multiplies out at 2.75. I’m doing 19,000 points a day.
“I guarantee I’ll do it. I can do it easily.”
The strategy is not a vacationer’s dream, but it’s effective for his purposes.
The “trick” is to spend the day flying back and forth between Vancouver and Victoria and Vancouver and Nanaimo.
“They are short trips that last about 15 minutes. They garner a minimum 500 miles.”
By contrast, a flight to Calgary also garners 500 points but takes almost 90 minutes.
In the evenings, Tacchi broadens his horizons, flying the trans-continentals to Toronto or Montreal.
“And I do red-eyes, which I’m able to upgrade as Super Elite most of the time so I get to sleep in business class.”
As soon as he arrives, he gets back on the return flight to Vancouver, arriving in time to resume the daily grind of flying to Vancouver Island and back.
Even more astounding is the fact Tacchi takes 36 hours out of the odyssey to do his job.
He works for another airline, flying a 767 cargo jet to Europe once a week, the CP said.
“I fly one day a week overseas and come back. I’m gone 36 hours and that leaves me the whole rest of the week.”
He has applied to Guinness World Records for recognition, but it’s the air miles he’s really after.
The one million miles translates into 10 roundtrip business class trips to Australia or Asia.
“It’s about a $70,000 value, all for a $7,000 investment,” said Tacchi.
“I figure a million miles will basically cover my travel for the next three to four years.”
Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah told the CP that the airline was “delighted” with the support Tacchi’s been getting from airline and airport staff so far.
Mah steered clear of answering whether the airline would want a lot of people emulating Tacchi.
“What more innovative way is there to get to know the vast range of the Air Canada products and meet our employees along the way,” Mah repeated to the CP several times.
“It’s called the unlimited North America pass and so the only limit is the imagination of the passholder,” she said.
In addition to the goal of one million points, Tacchi is aware of another Air Canada offer for top flyers.
“Air Canada also offers bonuses to their top flyers and one is a lease on a BMW for a year. So when I hit 300,000 air miles in about two to three weeks I have opportunity to get another 150,000 miles on account, or a car for a year.”
He might never have counted on companions for such a bizarre endeavor, but he is not alone out there.
“There are three or four of us right now doing this,” he said.
He knows because he sees one of the others several times a day, on the same flights.
Two other Victoria residents are also flying the endless skies.
“I believe I’m the only one going for a million. The others I think are going for 300,000.”
The frequent flyer says Air Canada is treating him well — and often.
“I’m not lacking anything. They have free food and showers in the lounge and they provide me with movies and entertainment. It’s a complete package.”
Less than a week into it, Tacchi sounds like the next several weeks will be a piece of cake.
“So far it’s been a pretty good run, for the first six days.”