Airline tickets may no longer come with meals, pillows or much legroom on planes. However, on some domestic and international flights, paper or electronic boarding passes come packed with a wide variety of on-the-ground bonuses.
For example, travelers on Virgin America can present their boarding pass for a free scoop of Humphry Slocombe’s ice cream at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Sadly, that sweet offer expires at the end of this year (so hurry over), but there are plenty of other boarding pass perks that extend into 2015.
Ski – and taste wine – for free
Passengers who show a boarding pass from any airline can score complimentary entry at some ski or snowboarding locations in the U.S.
For example, at Steamboat Ski & Resort in Colorado, passengers can use their boarding passes for a free night of skiing on the evening of arrival. Those who arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday can get a free skiing night on Thursday.
Several ski resorts participating in the Alaska Airlines Ski the West promotion are offering a free day of action on the slopes. Among the offers are a free day-of-arrival pass for out-of-state travelers at Alaska’s Alyeska Resort, and a second-day-ski-free offer in Taos, New Mexico.
Passengers who show an Alaska Airlines boarding pass (paper or digital) in the wine regions of Oregon, Washington and Sonoma County, California, may check a case of wine for free.
Boarding passes also make Alaska Airlines passengers eligible for free wine-tastings at more than 300 participating tasting rooms in Oregon, and more than 200 wineries in Washington state. In addition, under the Taste and Tote program in Washington, Hertz offers car rental discounts and waives the drop-off fees at three regional airports—Pasco/Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Yakima.
International airlines offer boarding pass perks
Austrian Airlines introduced its “World’s most valuable boarding pass” program in 2006, providing passengers with free access to museums and galleries and discounts at shops and restaurants for up to 10 days after they land.
Although the program is expiring at the end of 2014 for a reboot, an updated version will be offered in 2015 “with the same goal, to offer our passengers interesting benefits,” spokesman Wilhelm Baldia said.
Korean Air offers two boarding pass programs. Those flying from an overseas region to Korea can access the Excellent Boarding Pass Korea perks for seven days, and receive discounts on a host of attractions. These include tours, performances, meals, cellphone rentals, shopping, currency exchange fees, rental cars and airport ground transportation.
The Excellent Boarding Pass Worldwide offers a wide variety of perks outside of Korea, and is valid for up to 30 days from departure.
Through the Magic Boarding Pass program on Asiana Airlines, passengers have access to a wide variety of special offers.
An international boarding pass presented in Korea offers discounts on exchange rates, at shopping outlets, tourist destinations, concert halls and on ground transportation. An international Asiana Airlines boarding document also provides perks at premium outlets, hotels, restaurants and attractions in Japan, the U.S., Europe and Hong Kong.
In Singapore, passengers who fly on Singapore Airlines have a full month from the date of travel to use dining, shopping and other deals offered with their boarding passes.
“Tangible benefits for services that every passenger needs, such as the discounts on airport transfers offered by Korean Air and Singapore Airlines, offer the most value,” said Raymond Kollau of Airlinetrends.com. “Overall, I quite like the idea of thinking beyond the flight by offering all passengers, especially those in the economy cabin, boarding pass perks that let them make more of their stay in a city,” Kollau said.
(My story on airline boarding pass perks first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)