Despite the airline industry's reputation for small seats and big fees, some carriers truly go above and beyond to treat passengers like customers—not cattle. These airlines know it's the little things that count. Complimentary glasses of Champagne, in-flight showers, and free city tours are just a few of the worthy passenger perks available on select airlines, and many of these comforts are offered to coach-class flyers. Here are eight airline amenities that will upgrade your time in the sky, no miles required.
A Shower in the Plane
Ever wished for a hot shower while stuffed in a cramped cabin at 40,000 feet? If so, Emirates has answered your prayers. The airline is the first commercial carrier (so it claims) to offer an in-flight shower. You'll find the sky shower on the Airbus A380, a double-decker plane that has first-class suites with privacy dividers, a vanity table and wardrobe, and lie-flat seats. Unfortunately, a good bottle of hand sanitizer will have to suffice for coach- and business-class flyers, since the shower is available to those in first class only.
Assistance Planning Your Trip
Here's an easy way to put those 13 hours in the air to good use. Air New Zealand offers an International Airline Concierge service on select flights. The concierge stationed on your plane will help you plan itinerary, recommend restaurants and activities, and even help with travel arrangements like setting up a rental car. And the service is, of course, free.
Free Beer and Wine
In an industry in which indulgent perks for coach-class travelers seem few and far between, Porter's free alcoholic beverage service for all passengers is, in more ways than one, refreshing. The Canadian airline's complimentary offerings include wine from Jackson-Triggs, a Canadian winery, as well as Steam Whistle Premium Pilsner (produced in Toronto). If you're hankering for more than one free cup of Canadian brew, Porter flight attendants will "do all [they] can to oblige," said an airline spokesperson.
Additionally, on select flights, Virgin America serves a welcome cocktail (vodka mixed with fruit juice—or just plain fruit juice, if you prefer) to passengers in all classes.
Traditional Tea Service
Enjoy a taste of English tradition before you even set foot on British soil. This year, Virgin Atlantic started offering a tea service fit for the Queen Mum on select flights. The setup features finger sandwiches and scones served on cake stands, as well as a choice of classic English teas. According to a press release from the airline, Virgin introduced the service to please passengers "influenced by TV period dramas such as Downton Abbey." Also in accordance with Downton Abbey themes, this posh perk is only available for upper-class passengers (the airline's equivalent of first class).
Richard Branson-Shaped Ice Cubes
Here's another upper-class perk on Virgin Atlantic, though this one's less traditional, to say the least. According to the Telegraph, starting this month, upper-class Virgin Atlantic passengers can plop a small, cool billionaire's head into their complimentary cocktails. The airline is serving Richard Branson-shaped ice cubes in celebration of its newly launched in-flight bars.
We have to ask: Why are the cubes are only available for upper-class flyers? Was it too much trouble to stick a few extra trays into the freezer? We contacted Virgin Atlantic for answers, but have yet to receive a response.
On Air France, free Champagne flows like nonpotable water. The carrier happens to be the only airline that serves complimentary Champagne to passengers in all classes. According to Air France, it pops more than a million bottles of bubbly a year. The gratis Champagne is available to all passengers regardless of class on long-haul international flights.
Freshly Baked Cookies
Frontier was once famous for serving free just-baked cookies on all flights to all classes of passengers. But the airline abruptly ended the practice last April, replacing the popular treats with bagged crackers. (The cookies were originally served on Midwest before the two carriers merged.) But there's still a way to enjoy gooey, hot-from-the-oven cookies in the sky. On select North American and Caribbean flights, American Airlines offers cookies baked on the plane. Alas, these are for first-class passengers only.
Turkish Airlines has managed to turn the dreaded day-long stopover into a minivacation. All passengers flying internationally with a stopover in Istanbul (lasting less than 24 hours) are eligible to receive a free local tour. Flyers are picked up by an English-speaking guide at Istanbul Ataturk Airport and taken to famous city sites including the Hagia Sophia Museum, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. There's no need to stock up on local currency, as meals and museum fees are complimentary. (But we recommend getting a small amount of cash in order to tip your guide.) Half- and full-day tours are available on every day of the week. For more information, visit the Touristanbul website.
(Photo: Shutterstock/Irina oxilixo Danilova)