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How US athletes are traveling to the Tokyo Olympics this summer

July 17, 2021
5 min read
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How US athletes are traveling to the Tokyo Olympics this summer
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I'd planned to be in Tokyo for the rescheduled Olympics this summer. My Olympic dreams were crushed when Japan announced it wouldn't allow overseas visitors to attend the Tokyo Olympics. But, the Olympics are still on and many athletes are traveling to Tokyo.

Back in March 2020, Delta announced it would become the official airline of Team USA beginning Jan. 1, 2021. However, with the Tokyo Olympics postponed from 2020 to 2021, Team USA allowed most sponsors to extend through the Tokyo Olympics (including United).

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As such, most U.S. athletes and Olympic committee members are flying United Airlines to the Tokyo Olympics. And, even if you aren't flying to Tokyo, you may be able to snag some Olympic swag from United. For example, TPG editor at large Zach Honig recently enjoyed Team USA amenity kits and pajamas when flying United Polaris.

But, back to the athletes. United recently posted a photo of Team USA gymnast Simone Biles in United Polaris business class, with a custom blanket for the G.O.A.T. And North Shore Gymnastics Association got attention earlier this summer when it posted an online fundraiser to upgrade three Minnesota gymnasts to United Polaris. The campaign raised $34,860 and the association published a photo of one of the gymnasts sitting in United Polaris on July 15. Hopefully, the association also looked into getting United Airlines upgrades using miles.

 

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Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on United Airlines

Although some Olympic athletes have secured upgrades for their flights, most will fly in economy. After all, there's a limited number of business class seats on each aircraft. So, even if an airline or team wanted to fly all the Olympic athletes in premium cabins, it's typically not possible. For example, a few years ago, Delta denied an upgrade request from the U.S. men's curling team after winning gold in Pyeongchang. Although TPG didn't check upgrade availability at the time, Delta claimed there were "no seats" available for upgrades.

TPG readers know it's often possible to upgrade paid fares with miles. And, many readers simply book business class awards using points and miles. But, many Olympic teams fly on charter flights or flights offered as part of a sponsorship deal. So, even if an Olympic athlete typically works to maximize their points and miles and book business class award flights, they may not have many options when flying to a high-profile event like the Olympics.

Of course, Team USA is only one group of athletes flying to the Tokyo Olympics. For example, Iberia flew two flights from Madrid to Tokyo on July 15 and 17 for Spanish athletes. The airline announced it would use an A350 christened "Spanish Olympic Team" for these flights.

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And humans aren't the only ones traveling to the Olympics. For example, 247 horses are also traveling to Tokyo; check out this video for an exciting look at these cargo flights.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees