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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
'My supersonic seat cost 800 of biscuits'
A once-in-a-lifetime flight on Concorde didn't just take the biscuit for Justin Cornell, it took 900 packets of them.

Justin Cornell
Justin, on the flight deck of Concorde
That's how many he bought to earn a free flight on the world's fastest passenger jet.

Justin, who always has a keen eye for a bargain, spotted that a special promotion at his local supermarket could ramp up the points on his customer loyalty card, which could then be converted into Air Miles.

"For next to nothing, I was able to realise one of my biggest dreams," he said.

But the dream flight to New York was more than just a thrilling trip for the 32-year-old bank clerk from Portsmouth, it was a Road to Damascus conversion which helped Justin lose 10 stone in weight.

The day before he flew, Justin was stricken by anxiety that he would be turfed off the plane because his 23-stone frame would not fit in the slim-line seats.

Luckily, there was not a problem on the day. But his fretting had been such a traumatic experience, he resolved to go on a strict diet the moment he got home.

Chocolate biscuits

The amazing story started when Justin spotted a promotion Tesco was running on chocolate biscuits, offering an extra 100 Clubcard points for every two packets bought.

If I can get a deal on something then I'll go for it
Justin Cornell
At the same time, he knew Air Miles was running a special deal which halved the number of credits needed for a return Concorde ticket to New York. Points from both cards are interchangeable.

Justin realised buying 900 packets would get him a return seat to New York on the supersonic airliner, which retires this week after 26 years of service.

It took visits to three Tesco stores to persuade managers that he was not "completely bonkers". In the last store he spent 800 on Bahlsen Messino biscuits, which bagged him more than 45,000 Clubcard points.

"My family and friends thought I was so lucky. But they know what I'm like. If I can get a deal on something then I'll go for it," he said.

Justin Cornell
Justin last month, 10 stone lighter
He had previously demonstrated his keen eye for a bargain by flying first class to San Francisco after spending 300 on shampoo.

But the night before the 3,000-mile flight, Justin, who weighed as much as Pavarotti, panicked.

"The nearer the time came for me to fly, the more and more worried I got. Because of my size I feared I wouldn't fit in the seat and I certainly couldn't afford to pay for another one."

But the trip was shortly after Concorde came back into service following a crash in July 2000, and the plane was almost empty. "There were 12 of us on board. I guess people didn't really want to travel on Concorde at the time.

"I did see Billy Connolly coming out of the loo."

But all that pre-flight anxiety had taken its toll. Concerned about his health, Justin realised he needed to lose weight and took immediate action, joining his local Weight Watchers group when he got home to Portsmouth.

"I was extremely overweight. I never used to exercise at all. I used to get a taxi to work and back. And I would live off takeaway food - Indian and Chinese."

He also put all those biscuits to good use, selling them on and raising 1,500 for charity.

"Now I feel a completely different person," said Justin, now a slimmed down 13 stone. "You could almost say that Concorde saved my life."


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