Photo: 123rf

There are some discomforts that go with air travel. Cramped economy seats, recycled air, struggling to get the loo…well don’t bear with any more discomfort than you have to. Here are some things you can ask the airline for, to alleviate some of those travel woes:

Note: some of these vary between airlines

Not all airlines offer the same perks, and there are some exceptional situations. On shorter flights, for example, the crew may not have the supplies to accommodate your requests. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask.


1. Extra provisions can be made for the elderly or medically frail 

If you have an elderly parent with medical conditions, inform the airline beforehand (or tell the crew when boarding). If you’re in Economy Class and there’s room available, there might be a free upgrade to a more spacious business class seat.

Note that “mobility impaired” doesn’t just refer to passengers in wheelchairs. You can also call to attention elderly travellers who need a cane, or who can only walk short distances; the crew can reassign seats (based on the cooperation of other passengers) to place these travellers closer to the toilet, at the front of the row. These seats also tend to have a bit more leg room.

Some cabin crews will also use the heads-up to identify if there are doctors on board. This will save crucial time if an emergency does happen.


2. You can ask for seconds or even food from Business Class

Photo: 123rf

The key is to wait until the meal is over. By that point, the cabin crew will know if there’s excess food in the pantry. If you ask during the meal service, you’re more likely to be turned down (they don’t know if there’s enough for everyone).

When there are leftovers though, you may not be restricted to just what they serve in the Economy Class. Some flight crews – rules permitting – will be happy to give you what business class is having.

As an aside, you can “pantry raid” a little on long flights. If you wander past the pantry and see a few loose sandwiches or cakes, don’t hesitate to ask if you can have one. It’s usually not a problem.


3. Ask for tourism tips

Do ask the cabin crew if anyone’s native to your destination (and even if they’re not, chances are they’ve been there many times). It’s a good opportunity to find out useful things, such as:

–    How much the trip to your hotel or Airbnb should cost

–    Faster or cheaper ways to get tickets for tourist attractions

–    Lesser known restaurants, or sites that are worth visiting

–    Which brands or products are cheaper, compared to where you’re coming from

–    Current events, such as theme park closures or new musicals, which may not be updated in other sources


4. Bring your own thermos to the pantry, and ask the cabin crew if they’d fill it 

Annoyed at having to keep buzzing for the cabin crew? They’d rather not make repeated trips either. Bring along an empty thermos (remember you can’t bring liquids on the plane), and you can request that they fill it with Coke, coffee, tea, and so forth.

You don’t have to wait till meal times; just wander down to the pantry and ask.

This is also helpful at meal times when you won’t risk spills on that tiny folding tray. Keep the lid on your thermos, and air turbulence won’t send hot coffee into your lap to cause third-degree burns.

Don’t request that they fill it with alcohol though; that will probably be denied because no one likes a drunk, puking, passenger who needs the loo every five minutes. They’re probably not going to take that risk.


5. If you have children, ask if they can see the cockpit

Most airlines do allow children to tour the cockpit, circumstances permitting. It doesn’t matter which class you’re seated in, just ask the cabin crew (it comes down to the captain’s approval).

However, note that some airlines don’t allow pictures these days, for security reasons.


6. If you’re alone on a long haul flight, request an extra pair of eyes on your stow-on luggage

Photo: 123rf

Inflight theft is on the rise, and the prime targets are lone travellers on long haul flights. It’s almost certain that, at some point on a 17-hour flight, you’re going to use the toilet or sleep. This is the thief’s opportunity to rifle through your bag and remove valuables such as money, electronics, or watches.

When you’re travelling alone, always inform the cabin crew. Point out your bags and where they’re stow, so the crews know that no one else should be peeking in them.

As an additional safety measure, always make sure you’re covered by travel insurance. Avoid policies that don’t provide coverage for lost cash, jewellery, and other belongings – if you’re travelling alone, this is protection that you need.


7. Request extra toiletries

You’re not restricted to the items in the toilets. Most airlines don’t stash everything in there because it’s too crowded; but they may, in fact, have shampoo, hair dryers, razors, shaving cream, hair mousse, and other toiletries.

Be sure to ask for them if you need them. If you’re jumping straight into work (e.g. you have a presentation to make shortly after landing), tell the crew what you need, and to wake you early. This will give you ample opportunity to freshen up by the time you land.

This article was first published in Go Bear