Last updated: 06:30 PM ET, Mon March 09 2015

Report Showcases A World of Offbeat Frequent Flier Rewards

Airlines & Airports | Patrick Clarke | March 09, 2015

Report Showcases A World of Offbeat Frequent Flier Rewards

PHOTO: Fancy a sidecar tour of Beijing? You're going to need to book a few flights on Qantas. (Courtesy of Thinkstock)

From Broadway and concert tickets to sky musuems and flight simulators, more and more alternative rewards are being offered through airlines frequent-flier programs these days.

The emergence of these alternatives ultimately led to an in-depth report from the Idea Works Company.

"Airlines now use alternative rewards, such as hotel stays, car rentals, and retail goods, to compete with other airlines, co-branded credit cards, and to reduce reward liability through redemption," states the report's introduction, which goes on to point out that "while low cost carriers sometimes do operate frequent flier programs, this is never the focus of their marketing message. But for many airlines, a frequent flier program is a must-have feature and especially useful for attracting business travelers." 

In addition to examining the growing trend of alternative awards aimed at intriguing customers, the report highlights some of the weirdest frequent flier rewards currently available. 

Among the most helpful or head-scratching, depending on how you see it, is El Al's Inflight Marriage Proposal Kit. For the combination of $60 and 120 points, the Israeli carrier is prepared to help the would-be groom seal the deal with an inflight delivery of "a bottle of wine, elegant glasses, and premium chocolates."

For avgeeks, Japan Airlines' Sky Museum Experience and EVA Air's Flight Simulator Experience are two of the more thrilling and one-of-a-kind alternative awards available. 

The former is a 100-minute tour that features exhibits and educational class time at a cost of 2,000 miles, while the latter is a 90-minute training session that requires a frequent flier balance of 100,000 miles.

But the unique possibilities don't end there.

Try touring Beijing in a private sidecar (Qantas) or taking a pizza walking tour in Manhattan (Avianca). While they certainly aren't mainstream rewards, they are weird enough to capture travelers' imaginations, and, in some cases, win their loyalty. 

Idea Works' report concludes that today's frequent flier programs "must entertain and engage."

"That’s where the magic of a well-thought-out alternative rewards strategy can pay dividends," states the report. "It's the moment predicted by Harry Selfridge, when the consumer's imagination is moved and the hand goes automatically to the credit card to buy a ticket based upon the perks provided by the allure of a frequent flier program."


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