Sneaky freebie airlines used to give to passengers only to get scrapped

THE heyday of travelling would once see fancy three-course meals and luxury service on flights.

And passengers were often given a sneaky freebie by crew – although this has since died out.

Airlines used to hand out playing cards to passengers
Airlines used to hand out playing cards to passengersCredit: Alamy
TWA closed down in 2001, although a TWA Hotel is now open in New York
TWA closed down in 2001, although a TWA Hotel is now open in New YorkCredit: Alamy
Delta had themes on their playing cards
Delta had themes on their playing cardsCredit: Etsy

One common item often handed out on flights were playing cards, dating as far back as the 1920s.

A lack of in-flight entertainment screens and pre-loaded tablets meant they needed to do something to pass the time.

Many airlines used this as an excuse not only to entertain passengers but to also freely advertise once travellers had left the flight.

The majority of airlines which handed out the games were US airlines, such as American and Delta.

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However, a number of other airlines were also known to have their own playing cards including British Airways and Air New Zealand.

Defunct airlines such as Braniff, TWA and Pan Am also had detailed decks.

Historian Dave Hofmeister told Apex: “I would say their heyday was probably the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

“I’m not sure when the collectable part of it kicked in, but I suppose that some folks just collected them to chronicle their visits around the world.”

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British Airways also had their own cards
British Airways also had their own cardsCredit: Flyertalk

Delta would often produce card decks themed on their destination posters.

Collector Wayne Moore said he had “about 30 different ones” with city themes.

Anniversary playing cards have also popped up on the internet, with a 50th anniversary-themed set in 1979.

However, some passengers reported being given them in recent years, suggesting they may still be in circulation.

The flagship British carrier British Airways also offered playing cards, titled The History of Passenger Flights.

Each card had a different aircraft carrier on it, from the very first few planes to modern carriers.

Other styles on eBay reveal simple black sets as well as vintage 1970s printed cards with abstract designs.

Some of the coolest cards were by Braniff Airlines, which flew from 1928 until 1982.

Their cards were created by designer Alexander Girad and featured Spanish and Portuguese translations of common tourist phrases in British.

These included “can I take this on the plane?” and “I need a room for tonight”.

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Here are five things you can still get for free on flights, as long as you ask nicely.

And a frequent flyer has revealed the free things he has been given on flights.

Sadly, free playing cards are no longer given out
Sadly, free playing cards are no longer given outCredit: Getty

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