8 of the most collectible airline gifts and freebies
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In addition to luxe lie-flat seats and multicourse gourmet meals, there are a number of carriers who offer gifts to their first- and business-class passengers.
Many of these goodies are highly coveted in the AvGeek world, and some even end up being sold on the secondhand market, where avid collectors snatch them up. But the best way to get one of these gifts is simple — just book a flight!
Here are the eight most collectible gifts you can get from airlines.
KLM’s Delft Blue houses
Arguably the most prized of all airline giveaways, KLM’s Delft Blue houses are iconic. Since 1952, the Dutch carrier has been gifting its business-class passengers miniature blue-and-white ceramic houses. And since the 1980s, those houses have also been filled with jenever, a spirit akin to gin that’s popular in the Netherlands.
Each year, the airline debuts a new model that’s based on a real-life structure — and diehard collectors book flights on the first day a new house is available to ensure they’ll get one (typically right after the grand reveal on the airline’s birthday, Oct. 7). There’s even an app to keep track of your collection.
If you receive a duplicate of a house you already have, you can trade it in at KLM’s business-class lounge at Schiphol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam for another edition, as long as it’s in pristine, unopened condition. Or, you can cheat by selling or purchasing houses on eBay or in touristy trinket shops across the Netherlands. Houses can sell for $20 to $40 apiece, but personally, we’re all for collecting them the traditional way.
You can fly KLM business class between New York (JFK) and Amsterdam (AMS) for just 57,500 Flying Blue miles each way. A flight out of the West Coast will usually price out at 63,000 miles one-way. You can sometimes save as much as 50% on award redemptions through Flying Blue’s Promo Rewards.
Singapore Airlines’ teddy bears
Passengers flying long-haul on Singapore Airlines might be greeted with an adorable little smile as they arrive at their seat. The airline offers teddy bears to guests in Suite Class (first class) and business.
There are two different bears, a boy and a girl, and their uniforms have changed colors over the years, adding to their collectibility. While some guests report the cheerful bears being placed on their seats before boarding, others have had them placed there during turndown and still others had to actually ask a flight attendant for the bears.
There are also specialty bears out there. For example, on the inaugural SQ22 flight, the world’s longest flight, bears with a customized A350 Ultra Long Range T-shirt were gifted to passengers. At the time of writing, only three pairs of Singapore teddy bears were available for bidding on eBay, so they’re quite exclusive.
How to book Singapore Suites with points: Singapore KrisFlyer is a transfer partner of every major transferable currency. As such, getting enough miles for a Suite Class award ticket shouldn’t be too difficult. The cheapest way to fly Singapore Suites long-haul is to redeem 85,000 miles for a one-way Saver award between Singapore and Sydney. If you’re departing from the U.S., a fifth-freedom flight between New York (JFK) and Frankfurt (FRA) is the way to go and only requires 86,000 miles each way.
EVA’s Hello Kitty playing cards
EVA introduced its special Sanrio-themed aircraft in 2005, and today it has a fleet of seven aircraft with special livery and cabin decor. Six of these planes are decked out with Hello Kitty accouterments, from the utensils to the pillowcases to the air-sickness bags, including one of Sanrio’s newest, yet already beloved, characters: Gudetama, a lazy egg.
Though many passengers collect all sorts of items from their flights, one of the most popular (and practical) items to slip into your carry-on is a deck of Hello Kitty playing cards, which are offered throughout all cabins, including economy class. They’re a lovely nod to the golden age of flying when playing cards were gifted to passengers as a form of in-flight entertainment.
How to book EVA Air business class with points: EVA Air is a member of the Star Alliance, which means you can redeem miles earned with programs like United MileagePlus and Air Canada Aeroplan, to name a few. All Nippon Airways Mileage Club is a great option for redeeming miles for a Hello Kitty flight between the U.S. and Taiwan. ANA requires just 60,000 miles round-trip in economy class and 95,000 in business.
ANA miles can be transferred from Amex Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. You can accrue enough miles for a round-trip economy-class flight on EVA Air’s Hello Kitty plane by applying for and meeting the spending requirement on The Platinum Card® from American Express. Add in an American Express® Gold Card and you can opt for business class.
Lufthansa’s rubber ducks
Lufthansa’s rubber ducks have quite a bit of a cult following, but they aren’t actually available on planes themselves. Instead, they’re gifted to passengers traveling through the Lufthansa First Class Lounge in Munich or First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, Germany. The first ducks were created in 2004 in celebration of the opening of the First Class Terminal, when they were placed on the sides of the bathtubs for passengers’ use.
They became so popular that the airline began offering limited-edition ducks for holidays and special events such as soccer championships, weddings and the opening of a new spa in the lounge.
How to book Lufthansa first class with points: The cheapest option for flying Lufthansa first class to Munich or Frankfurt is via Asiana Club, which requires just 50,000 miles each way and around $500 in taxes and fees.
Virgin Atlantic’s salt and pepper shakers
Technically, you’re not supposed to take the tableware from airlines, but Virgin Atlantic knows that nothing they say or do will prevent Upper Class passengers from pocketing their adorable airplane-shaped salt and pepper shakers named Wilbur and Orville. So, the airline has joined in on the fun, encouraging people to take them by printing “pinched from Virgin Atlantic” on their feet.
For the 2017 holiday season, the airline created a limited-edition red version of the shakers and even launched a marketing campaign with the hashtag #DontForgetToPinch, very much solidifying its stance on pilfering the shakers.
How to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with points: Virgin Atlantic has been experiencing financial trouble due to the pandemic, and its future is uncertain. That being said, in the past the airline has offered some great fares on its Upper Class product at under $2,000. If you’re looking to redeem miles, avoid Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – award flights cost 95,000 miles one-way and come with over $1,200 in fuel surcharges.
Delta offers dynamic pricing, so it isn’t always predictable but at the low end, you’ll need 155,000 SkyMiles and around $300 for an Upper Class flight between to London (LHR). However, ANA once again takes the cake with the lowest redemption levels of them all: 55,000 miles round-trip for economy and 88,000 for Upper Class.
Okay — tea might be a bit of a difficult thing to collect since it does have a shelf life, but given that airline gifts are a rarity, we had to give a shoutout to Aeroflot’s gift of Kioko tea to its business-class passengers. At the end of a flight, the flight attendants will bring around the boxes of tea and thank each passenger individually.
There are actually numerous flavors to try, each packaged in a carton marked “Specially for Aeroflot.” Somewhat surprisingly, there’s even a secondhand market for these teas, with a number of them being sold on eBay at the time of writing.
How to book Aeroflot business class with points: As a SkyTeam alliance member, Aeroflot awards can be booked via partners like Flying Blue, Delta SkyMiles and Korean SkyPass. Flying Blue will set you back 53,000 miles one-way between JFK and Moscow (SVO). A better option would be Korean SkyPass, which requires just 80,000 miles round-trip for a business-class ticket.
Korean is unfortunately no longer an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, so miles are a little tougher to come by. However, U.S. Bank issues several Korean SkyPass credit cards and you can still transfer points from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio. You’ll get 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points transferred.
Brussels Airlines’ box of chocolates
Like Aeroflot, Brussels offers its business-class passengers an edible parting gift in the form of a large box of Neuhaus chocolates. While not particularly collectible given their consumable nature, the chocolates are certainly a welcome treat at the end of a flight.
How to book Brussels Airlines business class with points: One of the best ways to book Brussels Airlines business class is ANA Mileage Club, which is an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner and requires just 88,000 miles round-trip in economy class. If you want a more run-of-the-mill option, go for Air Canada Aeroplan. It’s a Citi ThankYou transfer partner and requires just 55,000 miles each way.
Even though amenity kits aren’t technically gifts (given that they’re standard in all-business-class cabins) some airlines do go above and beyond with their products. As far as the more gift-like kits go, there’s Singapore’s first-class product which comes with a Lalique candle (to be used at home, not in the cabin), Saudia’s partnership with luxury bag designer Furla on a special clutch and Qantas’ 16-piece collection of kits designed by Australian artists. Many AvGeeks will collect their kits, while others choose to donate them to charity.
Additional reporting by Ariana Arghandewal.
Featured photo by Casarsa/Getty Images.
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