There are some cool things you can swipe off planes and some you cannot.
(Disclaimer: The author of this article may or may not be in possession of a gel pillow she slept on during her first United Polaris flight in 2016.)
These days, water, soft drinks and tiny bags of sweet or salty snacks are the only free amenities routinely distributed to domestic economy-class flyers. Meanwhile, premium-class flyers often get more service and “stuff.”
But if you play your cards right, ask nicely and stay alert, you can often leave the plane guilt-free with airline swag, no matter what cabin you fly in.
Delta’s ‘secret’ airplane trading cards
According to Delta Air Lines, “when they’re not busy preparing for flight, or flying our customers to their next adventure,” the airline’s pilots are happy to pass out a collectible trading card featuring one of the airplanes in its fleet to “any customer that asks nicely.”
Created by Delta employees, the series — which is refreshed about every five years — includes cards that each feature one of the aircraft types for mainline and Delta Connection flights. The current set was redesigned in 2022 by Delta’s “Window Seat” visual design team and included input from flight operations employees and a vote by pilots, according to Delta.
The carrier says there are 11 card types in the current collection and six total Delta collections since the beginning of the program, which has been active for more than 20 years.
Experienced flyers may have forgotten the excitement of their first flight. However, kids or adults stepping onto a plane for the first time can have an even more memorable experience by receiving a small wing pin with the airline’s insignia from a pilot or flight attendant.
Delta and Alaska Airlines are among the carriers that still have airplane wings for kids and first-time flyers. Most are plastic, but the wings Alaska Airlines hands out are metal.
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“Keep in mind, only about 20 are provisioned for an aircraft that may fly several legs, so we apologize if we run short,” the airline told TPG in an email.
Southwest Airlines does not hand out wings on its own, but it does stock entertainment kits with wings in them for traveling children or others upon request.
“It’s got fidget spinners, wings, activity books, little crowns, mini playing cards” and other items, according to an airline spokesperson. “So just ask.”
KLM’s little Delft houses
It is a given that premium-, business- and first-class passengers get more perks, but long-haul business-class passengers on KLM get to take home one of the more unusual and collectible items: a miniature Delft house.
The little blue-and-white houses are in the shape of historic, notable buildings in the Netherlands or abroad and are filled with Bols Genever, a Dutch liquor made with corn, rye and wheat.
KLM commissions a new little house each year and releases it in October to coincide with the anniversary of KLM’s founding in 1919. This year’s house — the 104th in the series — portrays Valkenburg Station, the oldest existing railway station in the Netherlands.
Business-class travelers flying on KLM’s long-haul international flights may choose from an assortment of houses from the carts flight attendants roll down the aisle when the plane is getting ready to land.
Salt and pepper shakers
You cannot (or should not) swipe the plates, stemware, utensils or coffee mugs from your meals in business- and first-class cabins. However, airlines know that many passengers pocket salt and pepper shakers. Some airlines have fun with that.
Virgin Atlantic’s salt and pepper shakers say “pinched from Virgin Atlantic” on their feet.
And the little see-through airplane filled with salt and pepper on Condor (remove the propeller for pepper) says “aeroplane souvenir” on the underside.
Long-haul premium passengers are often gifted pajamas and other sleepy-time amenities, but the swag airlines really want premium passengers to take home are the amenity kits, which can get very swanky.
United Airlines’ new Polaris amenity kits are filled with products from the Therabody wellness brand. Emirates has a collection of Bulgari amenity kits for first- and business-class passengers packed with a wide variety of upscale products, including an engraved Bulgari mirror.