Free items razor shaving cream toothpaste
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Ask For on an Airplane

typically eschew titles of articles which imply what you know and what you do not know; so if you are looking at the title of this article and thinking “huh?”, you are not alone.

Skeptical when I read the title 10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Ask for on a Plane for this article written by Christine Sarkis for SmarterTravel, I wanted to know what I did not already know; so I read the article — and here are my thoughts.

1. The Entire Can of a Soft Drink

Somehow I knew this one without anyone telling me. I rarely fly as a passenger on ultra-low-cost carriers such as AirAsia, where they sell their beverages by the can or bottle anyway.

However, as a passenger on a legacy carrier, I cannot recall even once where I was denied the full can of a soft drink — usually orange juice for me — whenever I ask for it, which is not always. I also almost always order my drink without ice to dilute it. Of course, I am always polite and respectful to the flight attendants, which at times has led to them unexpectedly offering me a second can.

2. Second Helpings on Snacks

This section is basically identical to what you just read about the entire can of a soft drink, except that it involves snacks instead of an entire can of a soft drink.

In fact, I will sometimes ask for one of each on airlines where they offer a choice of snacks — especially when I have not had a chance to eat in hours due to close connections or long flights with no meals. Guess what? No flight attendant has ever refused that request — especially as I treat the flight attendants with politeness and respect.

3. Basic Medicines and Bandages

As someone who eschews the use of medication unless absolutely necessary — I rarely get a headache, let alone get sick — I do not have any personal experience on this one. However, I have witnessed the fulfillment of the requests of other passengers for basic medicines and bandages, so I know that if I ever need them, all I need to do is ask.

4. Medical Assistance

If you have had the opportunity to attend a day or two of flight attendant training at an airline, you would already know how much medical knowledge flight attendants possess whenever there is a problem aboard an airplane during a flight — and they will always welcome the assistance of a doctor, nurse or other medical professional if there is one on board during the medical situation.

In the event of an emergency, flight attendants are rigorously trained to perform such medical services as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and relieving a passenger from choking — and more and more aircraft are equipped with Automatic External Defibrillators, along with the training on the use of those devices for flight attendants.

Also, renowned hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic respond to calls from select commercial and private aviation services providers when a passenger has a medical emergency aboard an airplane during a flight. The call is transferred to a flight nurse or emergency medicine consultant who provides instructions for patient support.

5. Assistance With Swapping Seats

I already covered this topic back on Saturday, September 19, 2015 — and you do not necessarily need the assistance of a flight attendant to accomplish what you want if the other person with whom you would like to swap seats is willing to oblige.

In fact, here is a story pertaining to swapping seats which includes a bribe; a voluntary downgrade; and a very happy ending.

6. Cockpit Tours

Pilots are proud of what they do and the aircraft they fly. Show some interest and they will be more than happy to give you a short tour of their cockpit. In fact, I have even witnessed a few times where the passengers have had to cut the tour and the discussion by the pilots short — but that is terrific when a pilot shows such passion for what he or she does for a living.

One of my most memorable cockpit tours was on Concorde during a flight operated by Air France en route to Paris — and yes, this was after September 11, 2001. Another one was when I was in the cockpit of a commercial aircraft during a flyover at an airport before circling around and landing to a water cannon salute. It was fun taking photographs of the exuberant pilots taking photographs of the water cannon salute! However, that is another story…

7. Sanitizing Wipes

While I do what I can to ensure that I do not contract any illness — and I have not had an illness of any kind in years, unless you count the rare headache or very minor cold — somehow I believe asking a flight attendant for sanitizing wipes is going a little overboard. This would especially be true if your request causes that flight attendant to make a special trip simply to accommodate you with sanitizing wipes, in my opinion.

However, if you truly need sanitizing wipes, be kind to the flight attendant and combine that with another request so that he or she only needs to make one trip.

If you truly want to prevent illness and stay well, the best thing to do by far is wash your hands. I have never needed to “bathe” myself in sanitizer; and yet I do not get sick. Proper and thorough washing of your hands is paramount.

If you cannot immediately wash your hands, at least be mindful of not touching your hands, nose, and mouth. Condition yourself repeatedly to not touch your hands, nose, ears and mouth after touching “germ hot spots” — like I have successfully done over the years — and you will one day automatically not do so until you have thoroughly washed your hands. This habit became automatic to me; and it could become second-nature to you as well.

8. Water Bottle Refills

Who does not know this one?!? In fact, I will go one step further: if you have an infant where you are using a powder mix for formula or some other type of food, not only will the flight attendant be more than happy to add hot or cold water to the vessel of your choice, but they will also heat it if necessary. When possible, ask for bottled water and not the water provided through the plumbing of the aircraft.

9. Wing Pins for Children

Somehow, a plastic wing with a sharp metallic appendage does not appeal to me as something to be given to children — but then again, I understand that for a number of years now, the plastic wings actually have had adhesive on the back instead of pins.

The original aforementioned article specifically used the word pins and probably should not have used that word. Perhaps specialized paired plastic flight appendage contact adhesive adornments might be a better term — but I digress.

“I still have a Continental pin from my first flight in 1979 and didn’t realize they still existed until my kids received them on a Delta flight a few years ago”, said Dia Adams of The Deal Mommy, whom I contacted for her experience and expertise as a parent to give her thoughts for this article. “Not only is the flight pin tradition alive and well, on international airlines you also see various other kids’ goodies. The best I’ve seen has to be on Austrian Airlines: on a 30 minute flights the kids got a model airplane kit and a card game featuring vintage livery.”

10. Short-Term Babysitting

I am not sure how patient a flight attendant would be as a temporary babysitter during a flight — nor have I ever had to avail myself of this purported free service — so I asked Dia Adams about short-term babysitting by a flight attendant aboard an airplane during a flight as well.

“I’ve been traveling solo with my son since he was an infant and it would have been impossible without help!” she said. “A United flight attendant came to my rescue on a red eye from Las Vegas to Dulles when 18 month old Deal Kid blew through all of his outfits. Not only did she hold him so I could clean up, she gave me a blanket so he didn’t have to go home in a diaper.”

That is a rather mild story compared to this experience pertaining to the “real poop” of babies, toddlers and flying aboard a airplane operated by Air France during a flight — an experience where Dia Adams warned that “if you’re never going to have kids, if your kids are over 5, or if you just don’t want to know what is coming, PLEASE skip this post!”

This service may depend on the airline as well. “Singapore Girls make wonderful babysitters!” said Michelle Singh of Miles, Points and Mai Tais, who referred to this article pertaining to her experience aboard an Airbus A380 aircraft operated by Singapore Airlines on a flight from San Francisco to Singapore.

Other Items For Which You Can Ask

Not mentioned in the original aforementioned article are items such as a blanket or a pillow for which you can request — which you will usually receive for use during the flight if supplies had not been exhausted by other fellow passengers.

You can also get a medical biohazard disposal container for hypodermic needles and syringes. Hot chocolate and grooming kits are some of the other items which were mentioned in this article written by me back on Saturday, October 3, 2015.

Some airlines — such as Lufthansa — stock chocolate bars for children. Other items which can be requested for children can include baby food and coloring books with crayons.

If you are assigned a seat in the premium class cabin, you can ask for miniature bottles of alcohol; and when trying to decide between an ice cream sundae or a fruit and cheese plate for dessert, you can often have both.


For the most part, gone are the days when passengers used to ask for a complimentary deck of playing cards to while away the time — first, because many airlines stopped supplying them; and then because portable electronic devices usually already have at least a game of Solitaire. Besides, the electronic devices are most likely smaller, thinner and lighter than a traditional deck of cards.

I am just hoping that the article does not give the airlines new ideas for earning additional revenue by implementing new ancillary fees. “That’ll be five dollars for that aspirin.” At least that is still less expensive than what a similar aspirin would cost at a hospital — but I digress.

If you are a frequent flier, chances are very good that you already knew all of this. I could have written the original article, as there was nothing new to me. You probably could have written the original article as well. I suppose that if your travel experience is nascent, the original article could be of some value to you…

…but most importantly is to politely and nicely place your request with the member of the flight crew. Chances are that he or she will fulfill your request with a smile — even if it is not part of the official policy of the airline. A little respect and civility towards others go a long way.

What other “free” items can you get during a flight which are missing from this article?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!