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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.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
- Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
- Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
- Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
- Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
- Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- Annual Fee is $250.
- Terms apply.
- See Rates & Fees