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

8 Free Things For Which You Should Ask on Your Next Flight? Really?!?

“T hey say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and this rings especially true on flights, which feature a variety of free items passengers can snag, as long as they know to ask”, according to this article written by Talia Avakian of Business Insider.

With that in mind, here is a list of the 8 free things for which you should ask on your next flight — along with my comments.

1. The Whole Can of Soda

“Flight attendants are stingy with soda, generally only doling out half of a can, which, combined with the quantity of ice they dispense, simply isn’t enough to quench our thirst. So next time, order a whole can. Flight attendants are happy to oblige, or, if they’ve run out of cans, happy to return to refill your cup.”

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 water down the drink; 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.

2. Basic Medication and Bandages

“While it depends on the airline’s regulations, most flights are equipped with basic medications like painkillers and antacids, as well as band-aids. These are free if you ask.”

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. 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.

3. Hot Chocolate

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.

In the meantime: “As an alternative to coffee or tea, most airlines also offer hot chocolate. Etihad Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Southwest Airlines are just some of the airlines that offer hot chocolate in Economy. Qantas even has hot chocolate made with Cadbury chocolates to satisfy your sweet tooth.”

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.

4. Free Alcoholic Beverages

“Typically, this tends to be the case with long-haul and international flights.”

Yes. I knew that. I do not drink alcoholic beverages; and yet I am offered them on long-haul and international flights.

In other words, I never had to ask for them.

Keep in mind that this not only does not apply to flights within the United States in the economy class cabin; but some airlines will only limit you to one or two alcoholic beverages during a long-haul or international flight if you are seated in the economy class cabin…

…and even if you do have your request fulfilled, hopefully it was not simultaneous with a request for medication. Never mix medication with alcoholic beverages.

In my opinion, this item does not really belong on this list for the reasons cited above.

5. Grooming Kits

“On longer flights, some airlines tend to stock items like earplugs, pens, combs, and playing cards that they’re happy to give away. Emirates even has free grooming kits that include shaving items, toothbrushes, socks, and playing cards.”

I have card games on my portable electronic device; so I do not need a physical deck of cards. I never use earplugs. I bring my own brush or comb for my hair…

…and I typically never groom myself aboard an airplane anyway; so why should I carry that stuff around?

Besides, virtually every hotel or resort property at which I have stayed usually has pens; and when I stay at a low-end or mid-range hotel property — Hampton Inns, for example — I usually ask for shaving cream or razors, as they are sized perfectly for travel. I also ask for toothpaste when I run out of it. You can also ask for times such as toothbrushes and deodorant. As for liquid toiletries, I impart some handy little tips in this article.

Be forewarned that the complimentary grooming items offered at hotel properties may at times be substandard — like that stupid packet of shaving cream designed for one use which has the ineffective consistency of hand lotion — or manufactured in a country which may have low standards of quality. More often than not, however, I have received name-brand items which I myself would purchase in a store in the larger sizes.

In my personal experience, I have never had to request any grooming kits as a passenger aboard an airplane. If there are any grooming kits, they are usually given to passengers at the beginning of the flight.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

6. Extra Snacks

You can certainly ask for extra snacks if what was served to you was not filling enough; but I personally dislike bothering the flight attendant by ringing the flight attendant call button for a bag of pretzels.

If the request is not urgent or immediate, what I will do is wait until a flight attendant is about to pass by. I will call his or her attention and politely ask, “When you have a chance, may I please have another bag of pretzels? There is no hurry.”

More often than not, not only is the request fulfilled; but I have received as many as four bags of pretzels — and a smile.

Keep in mind, though, that if a flight attendant is busy, he or she may forget your request. I find that scenario to be seldom, however.

7. A Tour of the Cockpit

“Security measures regulating tours of the cockpit have become stricter, but many airlines will still do it. The best time to ask is usually after a flight has landed, since that’s when pilots aren’t in a rush.”

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.

8. Sanitizing Wipes

“Airplanes are dirty and carry a lot of germs, which is why you want to wipe down surfaces like the tray table in order to avoid getting a cold. If you forget to pack your own sanitizing wipes, ask a flight attendant since they usually have them on hand.”

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.


This is a list from yet another tepid article — no fewer than three of the eight items on the list pertained to asking for free beverages — which purports to offer valuable information pertaining to travel but instead gives advice that is marginally useful at best about which you probably already knew anyway…

…unless you want a tour of the cockpit while you eat your snacks and drink your hot chocolate after grooming yourself for a photograph in the cockpit.

All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I’m a right reader and fan of your blog, but we’re you in a bad mood when you wrote this? You sound kinda cranky.

    1. Nah…just having a little harmless fun poking at another one of those articles, Chris W. — while simultaneously giving a little bit of what I hope is some helpful advice.

  2. Re: #2, the basic medications, my experience has been that on Southwest if i even mention that I feel sick, I have a can of Ginger Ale and an individual package of Dramamine in my hands before pushback. They do not want sick passengers on their planes. OTOH, on United, asking if I could get Dramamine has gotten me a curt and unpleasant “NO.”

    As for #7, I can remember flying TWA in the 70s, when the captain would come on the intercom before landing and say that if there were any kids on the plane, they could come up to the cockpit after landing and get a tour. My my, how things have changed, for the worse.

    1. I must be lucky, Joseph N., as I thankfully have never been airsick in my years of travel.

      Ginger ale is sometimes my beverage of choice; but not all airlines carry it. I agree that ginger ale is arguably one of the best beverages for nausea as well as motion sickness.

      Perhaps Oscar Munoz will someday allow Dramamine to be offered by courteous and pleasant flight attendants during flights operated by United Airlines?

      Yes — unfortunately, times have changed. It is a shame that pilots do not proactively offer cockpit tours after the conclusion of a flight anymore, as it can give a child a special experience — and perhaps inspire him or her to become a pilot someday.

      The cockpit can be exponentially more interesting while in flight; and I was fortunate to have experienced that first-hand aboard Air France Concorde.

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