In-flight freebies aren’t what they used to be, but that doesn’t mean they’ve totally vanished. If you know know what to ask for, you may be surprised at what you can get for free.
One thing to keep in mind: Not all airlines offer the same extras. As a general rule, the fancier the carrier (and the longer the flight), the more perks it’ll offer. However, even short domestic flights on budget airlines usually come with at least a few freebies. Here are some of the best.
Make yourself comfortable
Cramming yourself into a tiny seat in economy class is basically nobody’s idea of a good time. Thankfully, there are a few easy, free ways to make the experience a little more comfortable — or at least less uncomfortable.
The coronavirus may not spread on surfaces, but aeroplanes are still nasty. Feel free to ask a flight attendant for sanitizing wipes so you can give your seat and tray table a once-over.
Basic first aid supplies and medications
It’s always a good idea to travel with your own first aid necessities, but if you find yourself in need of a Band-Aid or ibuprofen, ask a member of the flight crew for help. They tend to keep first aid basics on hand for passengers just in case, and might even give you a few extras to tide you over until you can stock up.
Complimentary pillows and blankets are pretty standard on long-haul flights, but did you know you can probably get a free pair of slippers, too? This way, you get to kick your shoes off and relax without forcing your fellow passengers to gaze upon your stocking — or worse, bare — feet.
If your noise-cancelling headphones aren’t quite blocking out your neighbours’ loud conversation, ask for some earplugs. Most airlines stock them for precisely this reason and will happily give you a pair for free.
Food and drink
In the era of $25 “snack boxes” and overpriced plastic cups of wine, you may assume you always need to pay for aeroplane food. Not necessarily: If you ask nicely, you can score plenty of stuff for free.
Extra snacks (and maybe meals)
The tiny bags of crackers, cookies, pretzels, peanuts, and other snacks that flight attendants hand out are definitely not limited to one per passenger, so feel free to ask for multiple servings. If your fight offers actual meal service, you may also be able to request an extra portion. (Admittedly, a double helping of aeroplane chicken piccata may not feel like a huge get, but hey, it beats a rumbling stomach.)
There’s no law limiting passengers to half Diet Coke per flight, so feel free to ask the flight attendant for the whole can. This also works for bottled water, juice, and other non-alcoholic beverages — in other words, you can’t scam your way to a personal bottle of wine.
Almost all fights that offer tea and coffee service also offer free hot chocolate. Whether you’re travelling with kids or just not not that into coffee or tea, this is a great option to keep in mind.
Cool stuff for kids
Flight attendants and parents both know that keeping kids happy and chill during a long flight can be challenging. Most airlines offer at least a few free extras specifically geared towards kids.
This old-school perk is still a thing on some airlines. Not all kids will care to see the inside of a cockpit, but the ones that do, really do. If your kid is in the latter camp, ask for a tour. Just remember to be respectful of the crew’s time and space.
Activity kits and other entertainment
Did you remember everything for the trip except your kid’s colouring books and markers? Your flight attendant may be able to help out. Some airlines keep craft supplies and even toys on hand for emergencies, particularly on international flights. The selection varies by airline, so ask to see what they have.
Most aeroplane snacks are already pretty kid-friendly, but sometimes crews have special snacks and drinks just for kids. It’s worth asking — a special treat can go a long way.
If you’re travelling with an infant, you may be able to get a free bassinet for them to sleep in. They usually attach to the seat in front of you or the bulkhead wall, freeing up precious lap space. Just keep in mind that each airline will have different age, weight, and height requirements, as well as different rules for reserving them, so always check with the airline directly before you board the plane.