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Airline Freebies You Didn't Know Existed

By Stefanie Waldek, Travel + Leisure January 2023

Would you like to learn about 8 Airline Freebies you didn't know existed in economy, according to flight attendants? The experts share about free amenities for economy class passengers.

These days, flying economy is often not the best experience, with cramped seats and limited meal and beverage service. But in some cases, you can ask your flight attendant for a few freebies to make your journey a little more comfortable — things like extra snacks, pillows and blankets, and even over-the-counter medication.

Routes make a difference, too, according to former flight attendant Susan Fogwell. "More items are available on transatlantic flights versus a domestic route," she said.

While some asks are almost definitely going to be a no — free upgrades, for instance — here are a few items you can often request for free on major airlines, according to flight attendants.

Basic Amenity Kits 

On some long-haul flights, airlines may provide amenity kits to economy passengers. "In our economy cabin, we have a lot of options available to customers, including pieces to help you freshen up such as toothbrush kits, earplugs, and eye shades for sleep," said Ben Whatman, Air New Zealand’s in-flight service manager. The kits won't be full of luxury hand creams, like you might find in business class, but they'll get the job done.

Free Bottled Water

You probably know you can (almost) always ask for a cup of water on an airplane, but did you know some airlines will give you a whole (or half) bottle if you ask for one? Whether or not you'll get one largely depends on availability, but it's always worth inquiring.

Blankets and Pillows

The cabin temperature on some planes can be notoriously cold, so you can always ask a flight attendant if blankets are available. And if you're on a red-eye flight, you should ask if pillows are available, too.

First-aid Supplies

All commercial aircraft are equipped with first-aid kits that include general supplies like bandages, gauze pads, and antiseptic wipes. Simply let a flight attendant know, and they'll bring what you need.

Over-the-counter Medication

Flight attendants also have access to many over-the-counter medications, from painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to antidiarrheals, so feel free to request these items.


When your personal earbuds are wireless, but your in-flight entertainment system is wired, you can ask a flight attendant if they have any headphones for passengers. Don't expect noise-canceling over-ear headphones that you might find in business class. If they're free, they'll be basic earbuds. And some airlines charge for headphones — usually no more than a few dollars.

Kids' Activity Books

Forgot the iPad at home? Some airlines have activity books for children on board.

Extra Snacks or Drinks

Economy passengers don't often get full meals on short-haul flights, but they do get a round of drinks and snacks. If you find yourself a little peckish or thirsty after that service, politely ask your flight attendant for another round. But remember, asking doesn't mean you'll receive. It's all based on availability and whether or not the flight attendant is able to serve you at that point in the flight.

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