"Aspirational" is an adjective much loved by marketing types, and much used when describing the capacity of free trips to make travel loyalty programs the marketing powerhouses they've become.
But where do you go from there if you're looking to take your loyalty program to a higher level? If a trip is aspirational, what is more aspirational still?
The answer, according to some travel marketers, is experiential awards—one-of-a-kind trips or experiences.
Which raises another question: How do you put a price on something that purports to be priceless? Answer: You don't. You put it up for auction, and let would-be buyers establish the price.
United is no stranger to experiential awards. Last year, the airline featured such awards as House of Blues VIP experiences and Live Nation artist meet-and-greets. And award auctions were a recurring feature of Continental's OnePass program, which is being merged into MileagePlus. So the introduction this week of MileagePlus Headliners—regular auctions of "one-of-a-kind experiences" available for miles—comes as no great surprise.
Touted as "your ticket to excitement" and featuring "once-in-a-lifetime experiences," the current Headliners auctions include the following:
- Two flight simulator experiences, including air for two to Denver, hotel, two hours in a flight simulator, facility tour, and lunch. Minimum bid at press time: 192,000 miles.
- A behind-the-scenes tour of Carnegie Hall, including backstage visit, four concert tickets, and private lounge passes. Minimum bid: 42,500 miles.
- Mammoth Mountain ski package, including air, hotel, lift tickets, and private mountain guide. Minimum bid: 81,000 miles.
Aspiration or Gimmick?
If you're awash in MileagePlus miles and looking for something unusual to redeem them for, these awards are certainly an option, perhaps even a welcome one.
Average MileagePlus members, with fewer miles and more practical goals, are apt to see these new awards as too expensive and too esoteric.
What, in other words, seems aspiration-worthy to some will seem a silly waste of miles to others.
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.