For some business travelers, flying in premium cabins is almost a routine activity. I remember flying Cathay Pacific First Class, when I commented on the mini greeting card that accompanied the first meal service. The flight attendants looked at me with the biggest surprise, “most of our customers don’t even notice it anymore!”
But for many other travelers, traveling in premium cabins might be limited to special occasions, or from a culmination of years of points and miles collecting. In such a situation, it can be nice to have a souvenir to remember the trip by. As someone who usually falls into the later camp, and as an airline geek, I really appreciate airlines that hand out mementos for guests.
Now, this post isn’t about amenity kits, pajamas, or slippers that are provided to customers in-flight. Rather, I’m trying to look at airlines that actually have deliberate keepsakes for customers.
I don’t think you can talk about airline souvenirs without mentioning KLM. Since 1952, they have handed business class passengers Delft Blue houses in-flight. They are miniature Dutch houses that are filled with genever, or Dutch gin.
Each Delft Blue house depicts a real Dutch house, and with every anniversary of KLM’s founding, they issue a new one. Recently, KLM started producing videos about the history of the actual house, which are really fascinating!
With 96 houses now in the collection, these have truly become a signature KLM item. There are dedicated websites about the houses, as well as unofficial retailers selling these houses to collectors. KLM even has an app where you can find the location of the real houses, and keep track of houses in your collection.
I am not sure whether this was intended as an official souvenir, or just as a toy for younger travelers. But I received this pair of teddy bears on a recent flight in Singapore Suites from Hong Kong to Singapore, as many others have as well.
Like the KLM houses, Singapore Airlines has many versions of these teddy bears, though I am not sure they are as systematic with them. Sometimes flight attendants set them up during meal service, other times when they make your bed. I have also had flights where I just wasn’t offered one. It does appear that they are usually available upon request for Business and First class passengers, so if you want a little memento, you can try asking on your next flight!
Ok…maybe not an in-flight souvenir with this one. But Lufthansa’s rubber ducks might just be almost as famous as the KLM Delft Blue houses. These rubber ducks can be found in shower rooms in Lufthansa’s First Class lounges, but are also available through your personal assistant in the lounge.
Lufthansa unveils different designs that are often seasonal or based on a holiday. For example, when I flew with them this past Easter, I got a miniature rubber duck painted like an Easter egg. The ducky even had “First Class Services” printed on it.
A few years back, I was flying Lufthansa during the World Cup, and I received a soccer-themed duck:
Lufthansa Flyer here on BoardingArea maintains a wonderful First Class Duck registry. If you are into airline memorabilia, I highly recommend you check it out!
Even if you are not stopping by the lounge, you might still have a chance of receiving a little gift onboard. For example, during the 2014 World Cup, I received this “Latin America Summer Party” CD onboard, probably because the game was hosted in Brazil. Fun fact: Germany actually won the World Cup during my flight! Needless to say, the flight attendants were all super ecstatic.
You an often find souvenirs offered onboard an inaugural flight, especially if it’s a long-haul flight that’s highly anticipated. Many airlines issue certificates with inaugural flights, and you might even get a keepsake tote bag with tons of goodies.
Playing cards used to be huge back in the days when in-flight entertainment was mostly just music and magazines. Many airlines no longer offer them for free; instead, they put them up for sale through duty free. However, I have also been offered playing cards proactively. Just a month ago, I got two packs of Hello Kitty playing cards on an EVA Air’s “Hello Kitty Experience” flight from Houston to Taipei.
There are also unofficial scenarios where flight attendants might offer something as a “souvenir.” For example, my parents flew Japan Airlines on their wedding anniversary. Upon finding out about the occasion, the flight attendant offered to gift them a set of JAL First Class mugs. My parents gladly accepted them, and occasionally still have their morning coffee with the mugs while recalling the wonderful service on the flight.
I don’t know many airlines that consistently offer mementos, or make free souvenirs readily available. However, they are a real treat and a nice surprise when I get them, many of which I still keep and display around the house.
Have you received any keepsakes from airlines that are particularly memorable? Do you know of any other airlines that still offer souvenirs? Let us know!