Upchurch remains firmly loyal to Virgin Galactic

Virtuoso boss says talks with other space tourism entities took place

© Virgin Galactic

Fifteen years after purchasing his ticket to space with Virgin Galactic, Matthew Upchurch, the CEO of Virtuoso, remains steadfastly committed to Richard Branson’s space tourism project.

In Australia all of last week for a series of events in Adelaide and Sydney, Upchurch had yet to learn of the latest setback for Virgin Galactic’s first commercial space flight until Friday when chatting exclusively with LATTE.

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Upchurch, one of the first people to put his money where his mouth by booking his seat with Virgin Galactic back in 2007, was preparing to head into space sometime later this year. However, the publically-listed aerospace company confirmed this month it was postponing its mooted launch date for paying passengers a few more months, until Q1 of 2023.

VSS Unity rocket motor burn on #Unity22 | ©Virgin Galactic

With space now the latest, and most lucrative, ‘bucket list’ destination to visit, there’s already a number of companies entering, or already in, the arena. They include Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, while other businesses developing their own space transporters include Axiom Space, Boeing and Space Perspective – the latter of which this week received another multi-million dollar funding boost by new investors.

Questioned by LATTE if Virtuoso was assessing other space travel options, Upchurch’s response was one of allegiance.

“We’ve had some discussions,” he revealed, adding, “I’m very loyal to Virgin Galactic.”

“I’m not interested in Blue Origin, not because of the technology or whatever, I just think it’s different. I feel the Virgin Galactic product is a whole experiential thing,” Upchurch said.

When the Founding Virgin Galactic ‘Future Astronaut’ snapped up his ticket to space in the early days, prices were between US$200,000-$250,000 per seat. Fast forward to February this year, tickets on the exact same flight retailed for US$450,000.

Matthew Upchurch, Chairman and CEO, Virtuoso at Crown Sydney last week

“I was giving a lot of people advice at that time, recommending they get in early. You didn’t have to pay in full straight away, you could secure a seat at different levels of deposits. But yeap, here I am now, after all these years and what I told people then turned out to be true.”

Upchurch continued, saying: “When I think about what people are spending on experiences today, and what I paid for my Virgin Galactic ticket… of course I want to do a space, but the events, the community that I have been part of all these years. Getting to go to the Farnborough Airshow and in the Virgin Galactic enclosure, getting to go to Camp Eclipse where they built a camp in Idaho to see the Full Eclipse – all those experiences, either at no cost or very little cost – that’s where they did such an amazing job.

“Because it wasn’t just your trip. It was the value of community. It was the other experiences,” Upchurch says.

A LinkedIn post of Virtuoso's former VP Global Partner Relations, Beth Butzlaff

Among the other experiences was being on the ground at Spaceport America in New Mexico 10-months ago for Richard Branson’s highly publicised spaceflight, along with meeting with pilots and engineers.

“So throughout all these years, they never just said, “Oh, thanks for your money” and left you hanging. I think, for me, that was one of the things they’ve been so great at.

“That’s one of the reasons why I think I love the Virgin Galactic product so much. Because it’s not just going to space. It’s the totality of the whole experience,” he said.

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