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Free flights are great and gratis hotel nights are a dream, but if you’re a true #AvGeek, then redeeming your hard-earned points and miles for something a little more AvGeek-y is even more rewarding.
Luckily, numerous airlines out there offer (often relatively exclusive) aviation experiences for rewards members, like flying an Airbus A320 simulator or experiencing an A220 flight simulator. Since most of these experiences aren’t available on a regular basis, you’ll want to start stockpiling your points and miles now instead of burning them on a meager redemption.
Here are a few of the aviation-centric opportunities you could find yourself taking advantage of if you play your rewards right:
You’ll find United’s aviation experiences and unique experiences that otherwise can’t be purchased, through its MileagePlus Exclusive program. The way it works is that members bid on an experience, so you won’t be using a set number of miles. Typically, experiences go for about 100,000-500,000 miles. Although flight simulator experiences similar to the one TPG contributor Jason Steele got to experience firsthand are only offered at select times per year, they are well worth it, according to Steele. While there aren’t any simulator experiences available at the moment, recent examples include an auction for parts of the airline’s now retired 747 fleet as well as the chance to experience a Boeing 777 flight simulation. Make sure to check the MileagePlus Exclusive website for upcoming opportunities.
Delta Air Lines
Delta’s aviation-related experiences are hosted through SkyMiles Experiences, which launched in 2010. Experiences offered range from touring the A220 facility before Delta took delivery to bidding on seats in Delta One as a part of the airline’s 747 farewell tour last year. While this journey around the country with the 747 was primarily an employee tour, according to Delta, “customers were thrilled to share that exclusive experience with Delta employees.” In order to determine what to feature, Delta says it regularly talks with customers to determine what types of experiences resonate best and develop ways for members to customize their experience with Delta using miles.
If you are one of the few to join Alaska’s 2-million-mile club and earn lifetime MVP Gold 75K status, you’re in luck. While not bookable with points and miles, a representative for the airline tells TPG that these elite flyers get “surprised” with a free flight simulator experience — one of several congratulatory gifts members can choose from after hitting the milestone — using a Boeing 737 at Alaska Airlines Flight Ops.
Representatives for JetBlue, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines said in individual statements that the airlines do not offer anything similar to the aviation experiences detailed above at this time.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees