First class passengers are privy to plenty of perks. Complimentary cocktails. Seats that fully recline and transform into comfortable cocoons for snoozing.
But some airlines offer more unusual amenities to keep customers coming back, and sometimes they’re even available to the people in the back of the plane.
Here’s a look at some noteworthy fringe benefits some global airlines offer. Check them out while you’re traveling the world.
1. BIKINI BABES
“I’ve spent a rather large amount of time traveling the world,” said Travis Bennett, chief operating officer and co-founder of Ya3, which offers an artificial-intelligence-driven travel app of the same name. “There’s a few rather unusual perks I’ve personally come across. If you fly on VietJet, they’ve got bikini-clad stewardesses that often do performances during flights.”
Not all the Vietnamese airline’s attendants wear bikinis in flight, but the company plays up the perk through calendars and ads, which seem to be working. VietJet launched a successful initial public offering in February 2017 and is now Vietnam’s largest private airline.
2. NANNIES FOR YOUR LITTLE ONES
Crying kids are no fun for either their caregivers or other travelers sharing space on a packed plane. People traveling with children on Etihad Airways can get a helping hand from its Flying Nanny program during long-haul flights, a great travel secret to keep your kids happy. The nannies assist anyone traveling with kids, regardless of seat location, by doling out arts and crafts supplies or simply helping get kids settled en route. The nanny won’t take your kids out of your hands completely, but even a brief assist with childcare duties on a long trip is a welcome break.
3. MORNING MIMOSAS AND COOLING PILLOWS
In addition to its selection of beer, wine and spirits, United Airlines offers its Polaris business-class travelers Bloody Marys and Mimosas on early flights. Then they can settle in for a mid-morning nap after enjoying a few breakfast beverages.
“United also has a cooling memory foam gel pillow only available by request in business class,” said Brian Karimzad, director of the reward travel site MileCards.com. Who needs to carry those cumbersome neck pillows on board when you have the memory foam gel pillow?
4. AN ONBOARD COFFEE HOUSE AND CHEF
If you prefer your breakfast beverages caffeinated, consider Austrian Airlines, which features a Flying Coffee House stocked with 10 classic Viennese brews for business-class travelers on long-haul flights. The carrier also puts a Flying Chef from the catering company DO & CO on board extended trips. The chefs put finishing touches on business-class meals.
5. TERRIFIC TERMINALS
Some airlines offer their first-class passengers exclusive access to their own lounges, and Lufthansa even operates a first-class terminal at Germany’s Frankfurt Airport. Not many people know this airport secret.
“The first-class terminal is a separate terminal from the main Frankfurt airport, and it includes a full bar and restaurant among other amenities,” said Lou Haverty, who operates the site The First Class Travel Guide. “They escort travelers directly to their flights in a black sedan.”
Other perks include valet parking upon arrival, a coat check for travelers flying to warmer climates, a personal assistant, shower rooms and a cigar lounge.
6. JEDI JETS
ANA (All Nippon Airways) operates a handful of jets with “Star Wars”-themed paint jobs through a partnership with The Walt Disney Co. The planes are painted to resemble droids, including R2-D2, and also feature Star Wars-themed cups, napkins and headrest covers. In-flight entertainment on international flights includes films from the franchise, of course. What better way for a “Star Wars” fan to travel?
7. SCRUMPTIOUS SWEETS AND EATS
One of the signatures of JetBlue’s Mint premium travel program is its carefully curated culinary offerings. For instance, Mint menus include tapas-style courses planned by the New York City restaurant Saxon + Parole and offerings from some of America’s best vineyards, specially selected by the airline’s wine expert Jon Bonné. Most recently, JetBlue launched a regional ice cream program that includes partnerships with five ice cream makers from around the country. For instance, Mint flyers might get local licks from The Frieze, based in South Florida, or Coolhaus, which got its start in Los Angeles.
8. FREE MICROBREWS AND VINO
Adult passengers aboard Alaska Airlines’ sister carrier Horizon Air can get one complimentary beer or glass of wine on flights longer than an hour. The drink selection includes wines and microbrews from California, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, such as Pyramid’s Outburst IPA or the Ross Andrew Winery Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon.
9. NO BAGGAGE FEES — FOR THE WHOLE CREW
Many airline credit cards offer a free checked bag or two among their list of benefits for the cardholder, but some extend that offer to several travelers on the same booking. That makes airline cards great options for groups who love to stock up on souvenirs. For instance, a number of Delta SkyMiles credit cards allow up to nine people on the same booking to check their first bag free, as long as the fares were purchased with the card and the cardholder provides his or her SkyMiles frequent-flyer number. That can add up to some serious savings.
10. FRIENDS FLY FREE
Earning a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass requires a little work, but the effort is worth it for frequent flyers.
“I don’t think many people realize how easy it is to earn and that it allows one person to fly free — aside from the $5.60 government fees per way — with you for up to two years,” said writer Lyn Mettler, who offers a guide to getting the pass at her site, Go to Travel Gal.
Members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program earn a pass after racking up 110,000 qualifying miles. And if you earn the pass early in a calendar year, your designated companion can fly nearly free with you for that year and the following one. Signing up for Rapid Rewards credit cards is one of the easiest ways to pile up points. For instance, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa currently offers 40,000 bonus points if new customers charge $1,000 within their first three months as a cardholder.