There was a time where you could get all kinds of free stuff on planes. Decks of cards! Pilots wings! Activity kits! A few decades back you even got full meals in economy.
Times have changed and the stuff you can get for free from airlines, especially on domestic flights, is minimal at best. Even stuff that used to be free, like the “privilege” of picking your seat instead of having it be assigned to you, now usually costs something. But there are still a few things, here and there, that are free:
Checking your bags used to be part and parcel of getting an airline ticket. Nowadays you have to pay for it. Well, most of the time. Of U.S. carriers, it’s only Southwest that doesn’t charge for your first 2 checked bags.
No Change Fee
Southwest once again is the winner here, since you can cancel your flight with them and get a voucher to use on another Southwest within the next year (and if your voucher is about to expire and you still haven’t used it, you can still do this, which I think is pretty cool of them)
Basic First Aid Materials
Granted, it’s not much, but all flights have a first aid kit and if you need a band-aid or even simple meds like aspirin, they have them and even won’t charge your medical insurance 😉
Heads up that if there’s ever a real medical emergency on a plane, most planes’ Emergency Medical Kits are not prepared if the person in distress is a child.
Here’s one thing that airlines used to charge you for, and now they’re free. Headphones. Granted, they’re cheap crap but if yours are broken or you somehow left them home, they’re better than nothing. And they’re free! (unless they’re not, like on JetBlue where they’ll set you back $5)
Of U.S. carriers, it’s only JetBlue that doesn’t charge. But hey, free is free (makes up for the charge for the headphones). Don’t forget to use your VPN because hackers can access WiFi systems on planes, the same as anywhere else.
Like we mentioned above, meals used to be included with any domestic plane ticket, way back when. That was one of the first things to go when airlines started having financial problems. Of course, if you’re sitting in first or business class, you still can get a free meal (or two), but for the rest of us? Usually not so much. Operative word: “usually.” There are some airlines that give free small meals its main cabin passengers on longer-haul domestic flights.
- American Airlines gives a meal to the main cabin passengers on its flights between JFK and LAX and JFK and SFO.
- Delta offers complimentary meals in the main cabin on flights between JFK and LAX/SFO, as well as BOS-SFO, BOS-LAX, BOS-SEA, DCA-LAX, JFK-PDX, JFK-SAN, JFK-SEA, SEA-FLL, SEA-MCO and SEA-RDU.
- Hawaiian Airlines gives free meals to economy passengers who are flying between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii.
Most U.S.-based airlines (Exceptions are the ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant) offer a small snack and a non-alcoholic drink on all but their shortest of flights. Snacks are usually a small pack of cookies or a salty snack. You can usually ask for seconds (although JetBlue ROCKS – besides having a wider variety of snacks [FIVE to choose from!], they’re also unlimited and for the taking). Most airlines only give you a cup of your drink of choice but if you’ve asked for a soft drink, you MAY get the whole can – or you can ask for one. Doesn’t hurt to ask, right?
You wouldn’t think that some airlines give out free booze to us commoners, but yeah, it happens:
- Southwest will serve adults age 21+ a free alcoholic beverage on major holidays (they vary which ones it’ll be) and on SW’s birthday (June 18th)
- For the past 2 years or so, American has been serving free beer and wine on its shuttle services between Chicago and New York, as well as between Boston and LGA or DCA, and between DCA and LGA.
- Hawaiian Airlines serve wine and a beer from Maui Brewing Company (of course) on flights between HI and the mainland U.S.
And Speaking Of Booze: Shipping Wine
I saved the best for last. If you’re a wine person (Joe and I are), heads up that Alaska Airlines has a Wine Flies Free program. If you’re a member of their loyalty program (here’s how to sign up for it – and a bunch of the other airlines’ programs, too), you can check a case of wine for free, with no baggage fee, from a bunch of west coast destinations. Click here for more info.
*** Feature Image (cropped): Saschaporsche/wikimedia
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary