9 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Get for Free on Flights? Really?!?

“Y ou already shelled out major money for a plane ticket, checking your bag and an expensive (but unsatisfying) dinner during your layover. We feel your pain, traveling isn’t cheap. But not everything has to cost an arm and a leg. Here are a few things that won’t cost you a single cent” advises Lauren Smith of House Beautiful in this article.

House Beautiful? The magazine and Internet web site which is dedicated to home decorating ideas, kitchen designs, gardening and paint colors? What does an article pertaining to being a passenger aboard an airplane have to do with decorating your home?!?

9 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Get for Free on Flights? Really?!?

Does the topic of this article seem familiar to you? It should, as I wrote two similar articles here at The Gate8 Free Things For Which You Should Ask on Your Next Flight? Really?!?, which was written on Saturday October 3, 2015; and 10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Ask For on an Airplane, which was written on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.

Apparently, Lauren Smith decided to split the difference on the number of items which “you didn’t know you could get for free” aboard an airplane during a flight — so get ready to find out about those 9 things you didn’t know you could get for free on flights.

1. The Full Can of Soda.

Sprite cans 12 ounces and 7.5 ounces

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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.

As I mentioned in this article pertaining to the ten ideas to fund rollbacks and improvements for the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program, I — more often than not — receive the entire can when flying as a passenger on an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines; and the volume of the plastic cup can usually hold most of the contents of a 12-ounce can.

Moreover, I rarely want ice added to any beverage which I drink because not only does the ice eventually dilute it; but I also get less of the drink because the ice takes up volume in the cup or glass. With some exceptions, I do not usually like my beverages to be ice cold…

…so in addition to asking for the whole can of your favorite beverage, ask for it without ice for even more to drink — and if the beverage is warm or at room temperature, ask for only one or two ice cubes. The flight attendant will usually be happy to oblige; your drink will still be cold; and you will still get more of it to drink.

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. A Sanitizing Wipe.

antiseptic wipes

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

“Your fellow passenger’s germs are no joke. Hey, there’s a reason people get sick after traveling. But if getting a cold is not an option in your life right now, ask an attendant if they have a sanitizing wipe you can use on your armrest, tray table and more before settling in for the ride.”

No — catching a cold is not an option in my life right now. I have to admit that I spent the last moment or so trying to figure out when catching a cold was an option in my life: “You know, I have not caught a cold in a long time. I really miss the incessant sniffling; blowing my nose until it turns a shade of beet reddish-purple; playing nostril hockey at night where the nostrils alternate being clogged whenever I switch sides laying down in bed while attempting to sleep; and coughing up thick green phlegm. Now seems like a great time to catch a cold.”

Give me a break.

The only time I wipe down the tray table and other surfaces is with one of those hot towels, if I am served one. Otherwise, I have never wiped anything down aboard an airplane with sanitizing wipes — I have touched tray tables; reached into seat pockets; pulled window shades; and opened the doors to the overhead storage bins — and yet I almost never get sick.

How do I do that?

Simple: I wash my hands properly; and if my hands have not yet been washed properly, I ensure that I do not touch sensitive parts of my body which could be infected and render me susceptible to germs and illness — such as rubbing my eyes with my hands, for example. This is far more effective than using sanitizing wipes.

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.

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.

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

I wrote an entire article pertaining to whether or not you really need antiseptic wipes while traveling which is more in depth — but you most likely already know my stance on this issue, if it has not been obvious enough.

3. A Baby-Sitting Break.


Photograph ©2005 by Brian Cohen.

“Even parents have to use the bathroom sometimes. So if you’re flying alone with your child and have to use the loo, most attendants are more than willing to watch your baby while your run to the back for a few minutes. Heck, they might even enjoy the adorable break!”

This may be true; but the last thing I would want to do as a passenger aboard an airplane during a flight is impose upon a flight attendant to watch a baby or a child.

If the flight is short enough — perhaps an hour or so — consider using the bathroom facilities prior to the flight so that you will not need to use the lavatory during the flight.

Realize also that a flight attendant is not going to drop what he or she is doing to take care of your child. If you really must use the lavatory and you are traveling alone with a baby or small child, let a flight attendant know in advance so that he or she can tend to your child when he or she is able or willing to do so.

As for the possibility that he or she “might even enjoy the adorable break”, that depends upon myriad factors. Not everyone loves babies and children; and not every baby or child is well behaved.

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.

I personally would consider using this “free service” only when absolutely necessary and there are no other options or alternatives.

4. A Cockpit Tour.

Delta Air Lines bankruptcy emergence Technical Operations Center

This is an actual photograph of the cockpit of ship 638, the aircraft used for Delta Air Lines flight 9998. The picture was taken in the afternoon while the aircraft was parked in the hangar after the bankruptcy emergence festivities had concluded for the day on April 30, 2007. Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

“Timing is everything with this perk: It’s best to ask after a flight (you know, when pilots aren’t working). That’s then they have downtime and are more likely to let you check out their home away from home.”

Way more fun than that is the opportunity to pilot a flight simulator. I know, I know — that is not something which is readily available that you can just walk up and request from an airline; but to be able to actually touch those buttons and pull those levers while seeing how the airplane responds is nothing short of a thrill, in my opinion.

One thing which is nice about a tour of the cockpit is that pilots are more than happy to not only show off their “office”; but they will answer just about any question you have about piloting an airplane.

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…

5. Hot Chocolate.

Free items

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

When it comes to hot chocolate, I believe in miracles. That sentence about me believing in miracles really has no relevance to this article; so let us see how sharp you are and guess why I wrote that, as no one attempted a guess in this article.

In the meantime: “When it comes to warm and cozy drinks, your options aren’t always limited to coffee and tea. Some airlines offer hot cocoa, which can serve as a reward for your kids for playing quietly or as a treat for yourself if you’re craving something sweet.”

That is all well and good — I prefer hot chocolate over tea or coffee, both of which I do not drink; but there are two things you might want to keep in mind:

  1. Unless the source of the water used for hot drinks is either bottled or not from airplane itself — or, at least, is hot enough to have been boiled — it may not be completely safe to drink. Zach Bjornson-Hooper — also known as FlyerTalk member T-wiz and the son of FlyerTalk member l’etoile — took samples of water from different commercial aircraft on a trip back in 2002 and used them as part of a science project at the age of 13 years old. His persistence and innovative results found — among other things — insect eggs that days later in the lab hatched into maggots; and The Wall Street Journal published his experiments and findings. I briefly revisited the potability of water aboard commercial aircraft in this short article posted on Friday, June 25, 2010 here at The Gate.
  2. Packets of hot chocolate are usually available free of charge at many hotel properties — especially those which offer complimentary breakfast in the morning. I usually just take a packet or two and keep it with me as I travel until I prepare and drink the hot chocolate, which I prefer on a cold night versus a hot summer day. On the rare occasion that I might have a cold, glop in my throat or a sore throat and no chicken soup is available, hot chocolate hits the spot for me — but it has been many years since that scenario has happened.

6. First-Aid Items.

If you are indeed suffering from a blister or you have a small cut on your finger, you should have no problem having your request for a bandage fulfilled from a member of the flight crew, as they are equipped with basic first aid items aboard the airplane — just in case they are needed.

I am fortunate to have never had a need to request for items such as these; but do not be surprised if the members of the flight crew refuse your request for dispensing medication to you, as it may be against the policy of the airline — depending on the circumstances and factors involved. There may also be the possibility that the available medication may not be your preferred type.

You are probably better off taking a few pills; a few tablets of antacid; and a bandage or two with you from your home. The cost — as well as the space it will use up in your bag or pocket — is minimal at best; and you are guaranteed to have what you need with you at all times.

7. A Wing Pin for Kids.

A wing pin of Delta Air Lines

A wing pin of Delta Air Lines used to have an actual pin behind it. Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

“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” is what I wrote in this article. “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.”

Well, wing pins actually do have pins on them again, according to Omatravel, who is a reader of The Gate; and airlines are giving them out to children once again. American Airlines has recently started giving out wing pins to children once again.

“Hey Brian, I work for UA and we still give wings”, Denise — who is also a reader of The Gatecommented. “They’re plastic with a pin on back. they are onboard, in the Flight Attendant kit. When I’m saying goodbye, I hand them out to the kids……unfortunately, some times I forget!”

I appreciate the information as well as her honesty; so this is a good time for me to let you know that if your child did not receive his or her wing pin, kindly ask the flight attendant in the event that he or she forgot to do so.

“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.”

8. Bottles of water.

Bottle of water

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Based on my experience, I must disagree with the statement that “most airlines have small bottles in the back they can give out when asked.” Many airlines have bottles of water; but they are usually larger sizes — typically one liter or so — and no one is going to give you a bottle of water that size free of charge.

A better suggestion is to carry an empty water bottle aboard the airplane with you and politely ask a flight attendant to fill it for you. Better yet, fill the bottle with water at the airport once you have cleared the security checkpoint but prior to the departure of the flight; and that way, you may not need to trouble a flight attendant.

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. Extra 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.

“If there are leftovers after all the passengers have been served, they’ll usually share the wealth.”

Actually, that is true. As a passenger seated in the economy class cabin aboard an airplane during a transoceanic flight, I once went to the rear of the airplane during the middle of the night while most of the other passengers were sleeping in the dark cabin to see if there was a snack which I could grab. The official first meal service had long concluded.

When I arrived at the rear galley — which was lit — there were a couple of flight attendants. One of them looked at me and said that I looked really hungry.

Momentarily puzzled as I had not yet said anything, I replied, “Yes — I am hungry and was looking for something on which to nibble.”

She promptly gave me a meal sealed in foil left over from the first meal service; and even asked if I would prefer the other choice.

I stood there, stunned. “No, this is great. Thank you!” I said appreciatively.

Along with a drink, I brought the second meal — along with some rolls which she gave me without asking — to my seat and enjoyed it.

I must have appeared emaciated to that flight attendant — but she was so sweet and so nice…

Other Items For Which You Can Ask

Not mentioned in the article written by Lauren Smith 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. Mentioned in the 8 Free Things For Which You Should Ask on Your Next Flight? Really?!? and 10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Ask For on an Airplane articles but missing from the article written by Lauren Smith are grooming kits, medical assistance and assistance with swapping seats.

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.


The funny part is that House Beautiful is not where I first learned about this latest article. It actually reran in — of all places — at Popular Mechanics, which makes about as much sense as House Beautiful. Sure, I have been known to write articles considered to be off topic for BoardingArea — I readily admit it — but you do not see me writing articles about gardening or decorating a home…

…unless you consider articles pertaining to chairs and beds and other furniture crafted from the parts of airplanes as topical for decorating your home.

By the way, both House Beautiful and Popular Mechanics are properties of Hearst Communications, Incorporated — which explains the rerunning of the article.

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.

All photographs ©2005, ©2007, ©2015 and ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

6 thoughts on “9 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Get for Free on Flights? Really?!?”

  1. JoeH says:

    Just to keep you from asking 3 times, have you seen any sexy things lately? My son preferred the polar express though.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Um…what, JoeH?!?

  2. scott says:

    As a flight attendant, I will always help a Mom travelling alone. They have enough to deal with. You also don’t want to order coffee/tea/hot chocolate . The water isn’t that great and/or safe to be honest. I never drink anything on the plane involving water unless its bottled or canned. BTW Joeh, youre an idiot

  3. You forgot free tampons…………….maybe even bars of soap. Brian I have seen them steal everything off the plane in my days including the underseat lifevest (boaters?) and the planes megaphone and first aid kits.

    When I started out we used to give out free mini packs of cigarettes, jarred baby food, hair combs (actually never had a request for one of these), writing paper portfolios including postcards, disposable diapers and of course playing cards.

  4. Hey we all love FrequentMiler and most of us have rewarded his hard work with numerous card applications using his link. BUT TALK ABOUT DISAPPOINTMENT!!! After reading his Monday morning post on Harry Potter (WTF), I realize now fully that the hobby is dead. R.I.P. FM 7/18/2016, The day FM “Jumped the Shark”

    Brian Cohen’s TheGate readers I invite you to read my blog … The Korean Klock Lady’s Free Travel Secret’s Others Are Afraid To Tell You….I will never give you… a Harry Potter review, pictures on my husband, pictures of me in a flat bed or F/C bathroom, toilet bowl pictures, pictures of pancakes or hotel hallways with room service trays, ask you for kickstarter money I do not need, post a gravatar of myself wearing a pilot headset, offer a personal consultation for money, tell you I am a foremost authority or embellish my bio, use big fat red arrows or post info without acknowledging who did the hard work in researching it. 고맙습니다
    좋은 하루 되세요

    1. Brian Cohen says:


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