10 Airline Perks We Love

Air New Zealand offers goodie bags to help keep kids entertained. Photo by Courtesy of Air New Zealand
By Laura Kiniry

We complain so much what airlines lack these days, but sometimes it's worth remembering that a few airline amenities still impress -- you just need to know where to find these freebies and other services. From airline amenity kits to sky nannies for kids, here are 10 of the best airline perks that keep us happy while flying.

Photo Caption: Air New Zealand offers goodie bags to help keep kids entertained.
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New and improved food aboard airBaltic flights. Photo by airBaltic
These days, we consider ourselves lucky when an airline feeds us. Thankfully, some carriers are even going beyond serving simple meals to incorporate local cuisine and innovative in-flight cooking.

Business-class passengers aboard airBaltic (www.airbaltic.com) can choose from dishes highlighting produce provided by local Latvian farmers, while ANA (www.ana.co.jp) offers economy-class passengers one of four Japanese-type meals -- such as a bento lunch box or donburi bowl -- on many long-haul flights to and from Tokyo, including San Francisco and D.C. Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.com) flights now feature induction ovens, meaning eggs, burgers, and steaks can be cooked to order on-board.

Photo Caption: New and improved food aboard airBaltic flights.
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Complimentary snacks aboard the Delta Shuttle. Photo by Courtesy of Delta
Though not quite the in-flight meals of yesteryear, some airlines realize that a little food can go a long way in customer satisfaction. Delta Shuttle serves free snacks on all weekday flights, including fresh bagels on planes departing before 11am.

Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines (www.frontierairlines.com) provides complimentary chocolate chip cookies on flights after 10am.

Photo Caption: Complimentary snacks aboard the Delta Shuttle.
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Complimentary wine and beer is served in real glassware aboard Porter flights. Photo by Norm Betts/Porter Airlines
If you're in need of a drink, fly to Canada. The country's Porter Airlines (www.flyporter.com) serves complimentary wine and beer, including cans of Bavarian-style pilsner from Toronto's own Steam Whistle Brewing Company, on all flights. Passengers flying between Toronto and Montreal on Air Canada (www.aircanada.com) receive similar perks. And this past May, Canada's low-cost carrier WestJet (www.westjet.com) started offering a free glass of wine or beer on all flights within the country's Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa triangle.

Long known for its beverage hospitality, Alaska Airlines' sister carrier Horizon Air supplies thirsty travelers with an ever-changing selection of Northwest wines and microbrews on all flights, and Alaska Airlines (www.alaskaair.com) serves complimentary Mai Tai cocktails on flights into Hawaii.

If you're flying any Air France (www.airfrance.com) route, a glass of in-flight champagne comes with the ticket.

Photo Caption: Complimentary wine and beer is served in real glassware aboard Porter flights.
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JetBlue's fleet of aircraft offer 36 channels of free live DIRECTV programming and 100 channels of free XM Satellite Radio at every seat.  The 100-passenger Embraer 190 aircraft cabin is shown. Photo by JetBlue Airways
While standard films and TV shows are still the norm for entertainment on most flights, some airlines are luring passengers with electronic incentives. Microsoft's Zune is the exclusive provider of in-flight audio on all United (www.united.com) flights, expanding passengers' musical choices from electronic dance to new wave hits. Sun Country Airlines (www.suncountry.com) makes digEplayer L7s programmed with 10 Hollywood movies, as well as games and music videos (available for passengers on all flights three hours or more). They're free for first- and business-class passengers; $6 to rent (along with a headset) in economy.

AirTran Airways (www.airtran.com) offers XM Satellite Radio to each and every airline passenger, meaning more than 100 commercial-free channels. And JetBlue (www.jetblue.com) boasts free DIRECTV on all flights, with 36 channels including the Food Network and TLC.

Photo Caption: JetBlue's fleet offers 36 channels of free live DIRECTV programming and 100 channels of free XM Satellite Radio at every seat, as seen aboard this 100-passenger Embraer 190 aircraft cabin.
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Staying connected aboard a Virgin America flight. Photo by Virgin America
While Wi-Fi on most flights remains a hit or miss, Alaska Airlines (www.alaskaair.com) and Virgin America (www.virginamerica.com) are two airlines that offer internet connectivity (for a price) aboard their entire fleets. Virgin also provides power outlets at every seat, meaning no need to charge that laptop battery in the airport. Other carriers with onboard plug-ins include Korean Air (www.koreanair.com) and AirTran Airways (www.airtran.com).

Photo Caption: Staying connected aboard a Virgin America flight.
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ANA has business-card like Photo by All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd.
Pampering isn't just for hotel guests. On late-night flights between Tokyo's Haneda Airport and Los Angeles, Bangkok, and Singapore, Japanese Airline ANA (www.ana.co.jp) softens the mood with relaxed lighting and scented hand towels. The airline also provides women-only toilets on all international flights, and recently began offering a men-only toilet on some.

Several Scandinavian Airlines (www.flysas.com) jets (SAS) boast exercise bars, and small seat mirrors for removing and refreshing make-up. And Korean Air (www.koreanair.com) even provides
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The complimentary Viktor & Rolf-designed swag bags aboard KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Photo by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
First-class and business-class passengers still receive their fair share of airline swag. Some of the best offerings include KLM Royal Dutch Airlines' (www.klm.com) male and female-specific comfort bags designed by Viktor & Rolf. Packed with a V&R branded toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, eye mask, and more, the collectible bags come in new colors and designs each year. KLM also continues to hand out its miniature ceramic Dutch houses (each filled with small bottles of juniper-flavored jenever) to business and first-class passengers, an airline tradition for nearly six decades.

For economy-class passengers, JetBlue (www.jetblue.com) gives out complimentary Snooze Kits on overnight flights, which include eye shades, ear plugs, and hot towel service in the morning, as well as endless access to the in-flight self-service snack bar. Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) provides passengers with a similar amenity kit stocked with eye shades, socks, a toothbrush, and toothpaste.

Photo Caption: The complimentary Viktor & Rolf-designed swag bags aboard KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
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Asiana Airlines' "pre-Mom" service. Photo by Asiana Airlines
Face it -- family travel is tough. To help alleviate stress, British Airways (www.britishairways.com) feeds kids first on all flights, so they're resting while you're chowing. Gulf Air (www.gulfair.com) employs sky nannies to entertain kids on flights to and from Bahrain, the carrier's home base. Those flying South Korea-based Asiana Airlines (www.flyasiana.com) with infants are treated to baby seats, slings, and nursing blankets, while expectant moms are given front-row seats for easy lavatory access.

Delta Air Lines www.delta.com) has even brought back its popular pre-9/11 tradition of handing out silver- and gold-colored plastic wings to children and (kid-like) adults. To keep kids happy on international flights, Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.com) hands out Kids Packs filled with stickers, coloring pencils, and activity books.

Photo Caption: Asiana Airlines' "pre-Mom" service.
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Concierge and three travelers having wine and nibbles aboard an Air New Zealand flight. Photo by Courtesy of Air New Zealand
Launched in 2008, Air New Zealand's (www.airnewzealand.com) in-flight concierge service employs a team of 90 to accompany the airline's long-haul flights and aid passengers with everything from booking restaurants and car rentals to planning itineraries and providing suggestions on what to see and do.

Continental Airlines' (www.continental.com) concierges work with BusinessFirst customers before boarding and upon arrival, offering VIP services such as baggage recovery and arranging ground transportation.

Photo Caption: Concierge and three travelers having wine and nibbles aboard an Air New Zealand flight.
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Booth for Free Singapore Tour at Changi International Airport. Photo by Changi Airport Group
Some airlines and airports provide passengers access to unique amenities before, between, and after flights, easing the stress of long hauls and layovers. Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com) hosts ever-changing free guided city tours of Istanbul for their passengers who have at least 7-10 hours between connecting flights. The day-long tours include a private guide and visits to some of the city's most historic sites, including Topkapi Palace and Hippodrome Square.

Any airline passenger flying through Singapore's Changi Airport with more than a five-hour layover can register for a free two-hour tour of the country at a Singapore Tour Booth, found in Terminals 2 and 3. Those flying airBaltic (www.airbaltic.com) out of Latvia's Riga Airport in the early morning can check luggage anytime from 7pm until 10pm the night before, then return to their hotel (with a carry on) and sleep in with one less line to worry about.

And business-class passengers flying Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) have access to the airline's Munich Airport Beer Garden, where Franziskaner draughts and Bavarian pretzels are the norm.

Photo Caption: Booth for Free Singapore Tour at Changi International Airport.
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