Getting free alcohol on flights is sort of my thing. Don’t judge me (or do – I’ll still be sipping away the next time I fly), but I quite enjoy a drink on a long flight. Or two. Or . . . well, anyway. The point is, as a frequent flier who takes red-eyes, international flights, and flights from the West Coast to East Coast often, I’ve got a system for getting my drink on (responsibly, of course) while not spending all that much money on the pricey airplane alcohol. I could be selfish and guard these secrets with my life, but what’s the fun in drinking alone? Cheers to your next flight, hopefully one where free booze flows thanks to these tips and tricks.
1. Be nice!
You’d be surprised just how far this can get you. Flight attendants have to deal with a slew of annoying issues and complaints constantly, so a friendly face among the masses of disgruntled travelers can really stand out. Make friends with whoever is serving you, be genuine, and, if you can, make them smile or laugh. This will encourage them to return the kindness in the form of liquid friendship, if you’re lucky.
2. Fly on a holiday.
Flying on a major holiday has its perks and drawbacks. While it can be a bit lonely and disheartening to be on a plane while friends and family celebrate something special, you may just appear pitiful enough to score yourself some free booze, especially if you’re flying solo. I’ve flown alone on several Christmas Days and have gotten free drinks every time.
3. Order extra.
One of my drinks of choice when I’m flying is a Bloody Mary, but I never need the entire can of tomato juice for just one little airplane bottle of vodka – it screws up the ratio, but I hate wasting the juice! So ask your flight attendant to toss in a second airplane bottle if you’re feeling extra boozy. Often, they’ll throw it in for free, and sometimes they’ll even give you several. One glorious red-eye flight found me double-fisting four airplane bottles for the price of one after a fun chat with a flight attendant led to a successful solo happy hour (and a great night’s sleep on the plane . . .).
4. Fly internationally.
Many international airlines and international flights will offer free alcohol, depending on who you’re flying with, where you’re flying to/from, and how long your flight is. Make sure to either ask or check out the in-flight information so that you don’t miss out on any freebies.
5. Go to your flight attendant instead of making them come to you.
OK, I definitely don’t mean you should bombard them! But if they’ve already completed the drink service and you’re still feeling a little thirsty, try approaching your favorite flight attendant rather than using the dreaded call button. It saves them the hassle of navigating all the way back to your seat, and they may thank you for it by keeping their card reader stashed soundly in the liquor cart while they slip you the good stuff.
6. Be helpful!
If a poor kid (or adult – no judgment) who is scared of flying wants to sit with a family member but is separated from them, offer up your seat. If someone is placed in the emergency exit row and doesn’t feel comfortable performing the tasks, switch seats with them. You will help simplify everyone’s lives, and flight attendants really appreciate that. It gives them more incentive to pay it forward with a bottle of booze.
7. Let your flight attendant know it’s your special day.
If you’re flying on your birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, or other special event, let your flight attendant know! You shouldn’t expect anything from them, but if you’re fun and engaging, your flight attendant may want to help you celebrate by offering you a glass of Champagne to say cheers with you.
8. Fly first class.
This is a no-brainer, but an easy way to get free alcohol is to fly first class, where it’s (almost always) included. While not technically free since you’re paying for it with the price of your ticket, if you get an upgrade to first class without having to pay extra, then you’re in luck! Some airlines also offer free drinks in business class as well.
9. Be a frequent flier of an airline.
Members of JetBlue’s Mosaic, American Airline’s Executive members, and United Global Services passengers all get the drink upgrades for their loyalty. If you’re a member of a loyalty program with an airline, check out what benefits are offered to see if alcohol is included!