From extra grub to cockpit tours, kid-friendly games to first class treats, cabin crew reveal just what politeness can get you on a flight.
Being nice never hurts in life, but on a plane it could make the difference between a miserable long-haul flight and a journey that quite literally flies by.
1. First Class treats
If you like the sound of being furnished with First Class treats like a cappuccino or a cheese platter, start by sweet-talking the steward. No guarantees of course, but you’re much more likely to win favours by making their job easier, than being that Annoying Passenger in Seat 38.
2. More in-flight comforts
Airplanes are usually well-stocked with those little luxuries that can help you sleep on a long-haul flight, so don’t fret if you’ve forgotten to pack your eye mask or your ear plugs, just ask for some! You’ll often be given a pair of socks or even slippers on international flights. But the most under-used air travel extra has got to be airline pyjamas. Change into the airline’s comfy lounge wear and you can step on and off the plane with your clothes still fresh. Ok, so they’re usually only available on major airlines like Emirates and British Airways and you’ll probably need a Business or First Class ticket, but if you happen to spill your tomato pasta all down your top, there’s a good chance the crew might take pity on you and hunt out a spare pair.
3. Get extra airline meals
Fan of plane food, or just plain hungry? Enquire about a second helping of breakfast or dinner and you may be surprised. Some passengers on overnight or long-haul flights skip meals in favour of sleep, or there may even be a surplus on more interesting meal choices if the business class or first class air tickets on your flight haven’t been sold. Be patient, wait until the cabin crew have served everyone, then politely ask if there are any spare in-flight meals left over. Naturally, you shouldn’t expect a ‘yes’ every time, but no one likes wasted food, so it’s always worth a go. Alternatively, if you’re always peckish three hours before dinner is ready, ask the stewards for a top up of peanuts or any snacks they may have on board.
4. Tour of the flight deck
If you’re curious about what goes on in the cockpit, ask and you may be able to see for yourself. Time it right though – the pilot will usually be more relaxed and happier to accommodate your request when the rest of the passengers have left the plane, or mid-flight, when the plane is cruising at altitude. Of course, allowing you to snoop around the dials and chat to the co-pilot is not an official service, but you may get lucky, especially if you’re travelling with children and mention to the crew that they’re keen to have a peek behind the scenes.
5. First Aid
There’ll always be a first aid kit on board your flight in case of emergencies, so do alert the steward if you need a plaster, sanitary products or feel unwell. It’s wise to pack some basic painkillers in your hand luggage for things like headaches, as cabin crew are not permitted by law to dispense any medication. On major flights, there will often be a doctor on the plane but you should not rely on it: if you have a health condition, always assess whether you’re well enough to fly before booking your air ticket, and always invest in travel insuance. Flight crew appreciate a passenger who helps them out, in any case, so if you’ve lent a hand with a medical situation yourself, you may well receive a glass of champagne or a duty-free gift by way of thanks!
6. Travelling with kids? Just ask for help…
Flying with a couple of noisy little ones in tow? Most cabin crew will sympathise, especially if you’re a solo parent. They can help out with holding babies while you store your hand luggage, keeping kids entertained with colouring books and crayons and even provide designated childcare. This is a rare service if you’re talking budget flights, but airlines like Etihad provide an onboard nanny on some of their flights, to do all the lullaby-singing and entertaining so you can get some rest. Ask about kids’ activity packs when you board, as some domestic and short-haul flights are starting to offer these as well as long-haul airlines. Bottom line: no one wants a screaming child on a flight, least of all the air crew.
Finally, make sure you land with fresh minty breath and ask for a mini toothpaste kit while you’re in the air. No one wants a furry mouth when greeting their long-lost relatives, or meeting a friend at the airport!