Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Thu February 18 2016

6 Oddball Incentives and Perks Used by Airlines

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | February 18, 2016

6 Oddball Incentives and Perks Used by Airlines

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When it comes to buying an airline ticket, most people choose their carrier based on one thing: price. But what if the fares offered by all the competing carriers are exactly the same? Having a few little extras can help an airline differentiate itself and, perhaps, earn more customers. Sometimes, the only thing needed to stand out is something simple: offering an extra bag of peanuts or cookies or a complimentary drink. Or, it could mean offering something totally unique and maybe even a little bit quirky. 

Actually, a number of airlines have (or have had) perks that seem unusual or at least unexpected. A few of these incentives are quite strange, but, at the same time, they certainly help the carriers that offer them draw attention to themselves. 

Here are some examples of unusual incentives or perks. 

Camels and gambling

Volaris has a few examples of quirky incentives. The airline has offered fliers a voucher for a free camel ride if they chose the Mexican low-cost carrier for flights from Guadalajara to Cabo. Volaris is also known for allowing passengers to bet against their on-time performance. Fliers plop down a small ante ($2) and, if the flight is late by more than the stated amount of time (30 minutes behind schedule, for example), those who chose to play can earn as much as $100. 

Themed PJs

During the most recent Cricket World Cup, fliers who headed from cricket-mad India to Australia, where the tournament was held, got special meal options. Actually, the menu items were more or less standard meals with clever names that paid tribute to India’s biggest cricket stars. The stranger perk related to this promotion came in business class, where fliers were given cricket-themed pajamas. Other airlines, such as Qantas, also offer sleep wear (without a particular theme) for premium-class travelers on trans-ocean flights.

READ MORE: Power Ranking The 5 Most Absurd Airbus Patents of 2015

Deep discounts for standing

Though it has yet to happen, Chinese airline Spring Air has hinted that it is planning to offer dirt cheap fares to fliers. To qualify, passengers would have to be willing to do one thing in return for the huge savings: they would have to stand during the flight. Ryanair has teased a similar idea in the past as well. Neither plan has come to fruition yet.  

Gifts for geeky fliers

Things can get even more unusual when it comes to frequent flier program rewards. Air New Zealand passengers can turn in their miles for Hobbit and Lord of the Rings-related swag. Options include Gandalf’s scarf, which is made from New Zealand wool and comes with a scroll.

READ MORE: The 8 Craziest Items Guests Left Behind in Hotels in 2015

In-flight proposals

Israeli carrier El Al allows guys to use their frequent flyer points to pop the question thanks to a special proposal package. The ring is not included, but a bottle of champagne and chocolates are served. The new couple is also given a 20 percent off duty free coupon to use when they land (provided she says "yes"). 

Animal-themed rewards

Though it costs more than 500,000 points, Qantas has a very unusual frequent flyer reward: a 10-day conservation trip to work with koala bears in Australia’s Great Otway National Park. Another animal-themed perk is available to ANA loyalty program members, who can use their miles to book their furry family member into the Pet Hotel at Tokyo Haneda Airport. 

These perks are unusual, but that might be the point. Anyone can offer peanuts, but few carriers are willing to opt for something as quirky and original as a camel ride or adult versions of children's sports pajamas.  


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