Airline perks you probably didn’t know exist

While airline travel can be arduous for most travelers, for others it’s never been more luxurious. When you’re fortunate enough to fly in business or international first class, there’s virtually no limit to the level of in-flight pampering you could experience.

As an award travel expert who’s seen it all, I’d love to show you some of the most incredible airline perks available. But instead of just teasing you with the amazing benefits of buying a costly ticket that you probably can’t afford, let’s also take a look at how you could experience these travel luxuries for free.

Airline perks you should know about
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Airline perks you should know about

Chauffeur Ride To and From the Airport

While you might not have heard of this premium flight perk, it used to be a surprisingly common benefit offered to business- and first-class passengers. Most airlines no longer feature this perk and the ones that still do typically require you to purchase one of the highest fare classes, excluding award travelers.

Yet Emirates airlines of Dubai still offers complimentary departure and arrival transfers for all business and first-class customers, including those traveling on frequent flyer awards.

Learn More: How to Travel Like a Millionaire — Without the Millionaire Budget

How to Get This Perk

The Capital One Venture Rewards card offers double miles on all purchases, and you can transfer those miles to the Emirates Skywards program at a 2:1 ratio. You could then redeem Emirates miles for a business or first class ticket. For example, if you use your miles for a business class flight from New York to Milan, you can enjoy a free limousine when you arrive at incredible destinations like Lugano, Switzerland.

Complimentary Spa Treatment

While you may not want to spend more time at the airport than you have to, you might reconsider if you’re entitled to deluxe self-care options like a massage or spa treatments. And that’s exactly what you can expect at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in London.

Visitors can receive one complimentary treatment from a menu of services including facials, therapeutic oil back massages, a file and buff manicure, a gentleman’s neck tidy or a ladies’ creative dry hairstyle. Also, the American Express Centurion lounges in Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami and New York JFK offer complimentary 15-minute massages and manicures.

How to Get This Perk

To indulge in this “free” perk, you’ll need access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse — open to travelers with tickets in  Virgin’s Upper-Class and Delta’s Delta One business class cabins.

Ironically, the best way to get a Virgin Upper-Class award ticket may be by redeeming Delta SkyMiles, as Delta requires fewer fees (when trying to book an award, I’ve discovered that Virgin imposes over $1,000 each way to redeem miles). Likewise, you’ll want to use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles to book Delta One awards, because it usually requires far fewer miles than Delta.

Thankfully, Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, which you can earn with your Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards. And if you want to spend time in a Centurion Lounge, you need to hold the American Express Platinum card, which offers free entry for cardholders and two guests. The Membership Rewards points offered by this card can be transferred to miles with both Delta and Virgin Atlantic.

A Personal Assistant

Even when you’re flying in business or first class, you still have to schlep your bags to the check-in counter or possibly navigate a massive international airport. But when you have a Lufthansa First Class ticket, you’ll enjoy your own personal assistant. This service will welcome you to the airport, assist you with checking your bags and even escort you through immigration and security.

Your assistant will then be available to guide you to the lounge and notify you if there’s any change to your flight’s schedule. If starting your trip Frankfurt Germany, you can even arrive at a separate First Class terminal and be driven to your aircraft in a Porsche or Mercedes vehicle. Upon arrival, a Lufthansa representative will even accompany you through customs and immigration, collect your bags and guide you to your connecting flight or ground transportation.

Also See: How Virtual Assistants Changed the Way I Do Business

How to Get This Perk

You can book a Lufthansa First Class flight using United MileagePlus miles, which will cost you about 100,000 miles each way from North America to Europe. But here’s a nice loophole — if you happen to be traveling from the Middle East or India, via Germany, you can book Lufthansa First class for a less than half that amount in United miles.

You could also earn United miles from the United Explorer or Club cards, or transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you earned from your Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards. Just note that Lufthansa only releases first class award seats within two weeks of departure, so this only works for spontaneous travelers, or for those who are willing to pay a change fee as their departure date approaches.

A Nanny for Your Little Ones

Crying kids are no fun for either their caregivers or other travelers sharing space on a packed plane. People traveling with children on Etihad Airways can get a helping hand from its Flying Nanny program during long-haul flights, a great travel secret to keep your kids happy

How to Get This Perk

Sue White, who detailed her experience with the program on her blog Out and About with Kids, wrote that this “Mary Poppins of the Sky” service was complimentary for everyone on an Etihad flight. The nannies assist anyone traveling with kids, regardless of seat location, by doling out arts and crafts supplies or simply helping get kids settled en route.

In White’s experience, the nannies still do a great deal — as she put it, they reassured that parents should “Call us if you need any mess cleaned up. Call us if you need nappies. Call if you need help. Call us if he needs entertaining.” Though these nannies won’t go as far as escorting your kids to the bathroom, the games and certificates they grant to young flyers are sure to inspire smiles.

No Baggage Fee

Many airline and rewards credit cards offer a free checked bag or two among their list of benefits for the cardholder, but some extend that offer to several travelers on the same booking. That makes airline cards great options for groups who love to stock up on souvenirs. 

How to Get This Perk

Several airlines offer this a limited version of this option, but a number of Delta SkyMiles credit cards helps go above and beyond, allowing up to nine people on the same booking to check their first bag free, as long as the fares were purchased with the card and the cardholder provides his or her SkyMiles frequent-flyer number. That can add up to some serious savings.

Friends Fly Free

Earning a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass requires a little work, but the effort is worth it for frequent flyers.

“I don’t think many people realize how easy it is to earn and that it allows one person to fly free — aside from the $5.60 government fees per way — with you for up to two years,” said writer Lyn Mettler, who offers a guide to getting the pass at her site, Go to Travel Gal.

How to Get This Perk

Members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards credit card program earn a pass after racking up 110,000 qualifying miles. And if you earn the pass early in a calendar year, your designated companion can fly nearly free with you for that year and the following one. 

Click through to read more about the best airline credit cards.


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