Topic of the Week: Your Favorite Quirky Onboard Amenity


I spent three days with Hawaiian Airlines this week talking to execs and flying around (posts will follow, of course), but there was one thing that struck me. On Hawaiian’s new regional operation, ‘Ohana, each aircraft has an ukulele onboard that anyone can ask to play. As you can see, no actual talent is required…

Ukulele on 'Ohana

This was a gift from people on Moloka’i in honor of a woman who it seems taught the entire island how to play. I loved it. And it brings me to this week’s topic. What other quirky amenities have you seen on airlines around the world?

[Disclosure: Hawaiian Airlines paid for my trip.]

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28 comments on “Topic of the Week: Your Favorite Quirky Onboard Amenity

  1. Those flights are so short, who would have time to play a song and why do they thing other people would want to hear someone play a ukulele.

  2. Not on an airline, but I love that the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch/London gives you a guitar to play during your stay, and has turntables and vinyls in the room. That’s pretty great.

    Not quirky, but I do like the mango nectar they give you on Hawaiian Airlines.

  3. Big fan of the complementary local microbrews and wines on Horizon airlines (wish Alaska would do the same)! Yes they are complementary to everyone on board.

  4. I enjoy the performing artists on Family Airlines, who doesn’t love a clown or a juggler sauntering through the aisles? Balloon animals…that is what I look for on a long flight!!

    (I really miss those butter cookies and malibu rum drinks on the ATA flights)

  5. In 1972, I flew Aeroflot on a very unpressurized propeller flights roundtrip between Moscow and Sochi where upon boarding the crew collected everyone’s ball point and fountain pens and carefully tagged eah one with your name in both Russian and English as well as your seat number. Then they placed them all in a metal canister and pressurized the contents with CO2 cartridges prior to flight. (Think re-loadable, CO2 cartridge controlled whipped cream containers that you can buy at Williams Sonoma) Upon arrival at the destination airport the stewardess would release the pressure from the container, open it and return each pen to you before reaching the gate…very efficient and thereby prevented the pens from possibly leaking ink (or worse) while in flight. The crew also handed out flavorless chewing gum (a scarce item in the USSR in those days) before take off along with instructions to chew continuously through the flight to “prevent head congestion and unpleasant ear-popping.” Additionally, no canned or bottled carbonated beverages were served on the flights and the pre-flight announcement also requested that ladies should not use hairspray in the lavatories (As those items are all pressurized, where the passenger cabin was not).

  6. Not quirky, but nice service amenity – LH provides a universal power adapter to travelers who experience trouble powering their devices from the LH power outlets. Really nice touch…especially when you are at 5% and the report is almost done. Air New Zealand and EVA have the BEST business class eyepatches. I got a pair of slippers on some airline I have forgotten that was more like slippers (not the Asian slippers) but pull on your feet and cover the whole foot (not the silly socks either).

  7. My favorite would be on Alaska Airlines flights to Hawaii where they serve you a complimentary Mai Tai in coach.

  8. Not airline related, but my favorite is the complimentary fishbowl + fish for your room at Kimpton Hotels, in case you want another living thing to keep you company in your room.

  9. That’s easy – the warm chocolate chip cookies on Midwest Express. And my second favorite amenity was the smell when they were cooking!

  10. Yup – as stated above: United’s Channel 9, which I pretty much stopped checking for over the past couple years as it’s being phased out with the new IFE.

    Been a fan since I started flying regularly in the 90s – Greatest thing in the world for av geeks, calmed nervous passengers as they were able to correlate aircraft movement with pilot chatter, and kept passengers aware of delays on the tarmac and ground.

    Second place: LH’s Toblerone chocolate.

  11. Yes, I’m old enough to remember United having channel 9. Of course, just having audio on any channel seems to be something with United these days.

    Sort of an amenity, I believe, is having a captain, first officer, whatever come back to you at your seat and speak with you. A ways back, a Northwest DC-10 crew member, flashlight in hand, stopped at our row, asked if he could peer out our window with his flashlight. We said, fine; he pointed the flashlight at the wing and apparently, seeing that the wing was still there, thanked us and went back to the cockpit. My dear mother, I recall, spent much of the remaining flight in prayer convinced that her time was up. The wing stayed on and she lived many, many years longer!

    Of course, sometime earlier, I believe it was, a Southern Airways pilot came back to my seat to observe and inquire. He saw my compass, my highway maps, and asked where I was going. I said, Miami, and he apparently became convinced something was amiss. The officials at the security office at my connecting airport (beautiful Eglin AFB, Florida), as well as the crew member and the sky marshall were very nice, and fairly firm, if I recall correctly. I still like to know where I am at all times when I fly but I try not make a spectacle of my compass and highway maps. Anyway, it’s always nice to talk to pilot or a crew member. Just a nice amenity!

  12. I know it’s not really quirky or that unique, but I like the Biscoff cookies on Delta flights. Stuff is like crack.

  13. KLM for at least 2 years in the late 1990’s gave passengers in J Class miniature models of Dutch Houses. Best of all on most flights the houses were filled with Gin! The only exception was when flying to certain Middle Eastern Counties, one received the house but it was empty!

    1. KLM actually started this tradition in 1952, and continue to this day. They have built an app for the avid collector, and there is a lively online trade between people trying to get all 94 (as of writing today).

      I like the KLM houses, and also appreciate the chocolate heart and proper soft slippers from Air Berlin. The pajama’s from American Air and Qatar are excellent, too.

  14. United still has channel 9 but only on United aircraft and with a captain who is willing to turn it on. All the Continental aircraft do not have the equipment put on ATC.

    1. We just took a couple of flights on United A320s with new interiors and the only available entertainment is inflight Wi-Fi – no in-seat audio and no drop-down monitors. Channel 9 is definitely on its way out.

  15. I seem to remember at least one intercontinental United flight in the past few years where Channel 9 was available as the audio you get when you’re viewing the flight map on the in-flight entertainment system. (Maybe the 767 from SFO-CDG, since I’ve taken that route multiple times?) Although I suppose I could be misremembering…

  16. Channel 9 still exists on United planes with IFE, but like it’s been mentioned here, pilots in those ACs have discretion over whether they want to turn it on or not. It’s increasingly less common, but I’ve had channel 9 on twice in the last month. Once was on a flight from AUS-SFO and as I was deplaning I told the captain, “thanks for having channel 9 on!” An FA laughed and said “there’s always one of those…” after I was (almost) out of earshot.

  17. Here are the United planes that still have Channel 9:

    757-200 (on flight # 200-999)
    777 (on flight # 200-999)

    For flights with AVOD, the option is buried in the main menu as the last option (From the Flight Deck)


    A319 and A320, although they are being phased out with the removal of AV equipment.

  18. EVA has nice a eyeshade in premium economy, too. I save them to use on all trips and at home.

    Best “amenity” ever was on a NZ flight from Samoa to Tahiti many years ago. There was a large group (nearly the entire DC-8 – yep, that’s how long ago it was) onboard, they were traveling to a choir competition. A couple of guys played guitars (in the aisle) and the choir sang Polynesian hymns and songs for at least an hour after lunch. What a great flight!

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