Free Airplane Snacks! The Tastiest Treats in Coach

We rounded up the best snacks you don't have to pay for in flight

United Airlines

On long flights, United offers patients free cheese and crackers before the entree.

When Frontier Airline’s beloved chocolate chip cookie was taken off the menu in 2012 (shortly after being adopted from its original failing airline, Midwest), the world wept. Or at least inflight foodies did.

The rest of us were already crying because of the fees we had to fork over to eat anything else on an airplane. And though most food offerings today will cost you an arm and a leg unless you’re flying in first or business class, there are a handful of airlines that still offer some free snacks in the coach cabin, on both long-haul and short flights. These are our favorites. What are yours?

Delta’s Biscoff cookies

Biscoff/Facebook

Delta’s Biscoff cookies are deceptive. Other than the Delta logo embossed on them, they don’t look like much — just basic brownish biscuits in a plastic wrapper. But the crumbly, crunchy Belgian cookies have a caramel-like, sweet-savory flavor called speculoos that is so delicious (and surprisingly, vegan) that they’ve inspired a cult following. You can nab a packet or two on all Delta flights except for the shortest hops, but you can also buy them online at the Biscoff store — where you can earn one Delta SkyMile for every dollar you spend. The cookies pair nicely with coffee (Starbucks is now served on all Delta flights, if that’s your jam), and we’ve also read that if you squeeze lime on the cookies, they taste just like a slice of key lime pie.

Air Canada’s Peek Freans

Billie Cohen

Delta’s Biscoff cookie might be more famous, but it’d be interesting to have a taste-off between those and Air Canada’s secret weapon: Peek Freans Cranberry Citrus Oat Crunch biscuits. Where Delta’s cookies are thick and stocky, Air Canada’s are thin and round with pretty scalloped edges. The flavor is more sophisticated too: a fragrant orange brightened by tart and chewy cranberries. Unfortunately, as I found out on the second leg of a recent pair of flights, these beauties are not available when your trip is longer than about two hours. On those flights, you’ll have to buy something from the Air Canada Café — a menu that sadly does not include Peek Freans.

Southwest’s peanuts
Since it’s a low-cost carrier, you might think that Southwest doesn’t offer anything for free. But you’d be wrong. The airline goes admirably old-school when it comes to snacks, handing out those increasingly hard to find favorites, airplane peanuts. “While I love the Delta Biscoff cookies and the JetBlue blue chips, I’m a simple man,” says frequent flier and air travel expert Brett Snyder of CrankyFlier.com. “Give me those Southwest honey-roasted peanuts, and I’m happy (though I hate when they rotate in the regular salted nuts). There’s something about honey-roasted peanuts and flying that go together like mom and apple pie.”

Alaska Airlines’s craft beer

Alaska Airlines

If you’re 21 or older, Alaska Airlines has a special treat for you. On regional flights operated by its sister carrier Horizon Air, you’ll get a complimentary glass of local wine or beer, culled from vineyards and microbrews in California, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest. It’s not cookies, but we can definitely see the appeal of this gratis perk. As Jason Kessler, the airplane-food maven behind Fly&Dine, says, “Free beer on a flight would make the screaming toddlers behind me a little easier to handle.”

JetBlue’s Terra Blues potato chips
JetBlue’s iconic Terra Blues potato chips are a no-brainer: They’re blue, and they’re quirky, just like the airline. In fact, that’s what JetBlue’s founders thought when they discovered the chips — before they ever launched their first plane. But even though Terra was already making the crisps, the company didn’t package them in individual-sized servings, so in the early days, every JetBlue passenger was given a large bag of the Blues. They’ve been free since the airline’s very first flight and don’t appear to be going anywhere. That’s okay — according to some number crunching done by Skift, the chips are well worth their cost in customer love.  

United’s cheese and crackers

United Airlines

Flying ain’t as classy as it was in the Pan Am days, but United is doing its part to bring back at least a little of that elegance. On long-haul international flights, meal service begins with complimentary cheese and crackers — sometimes cheddar, sometimes creamy Kiri cheese. Either way, it’s a simple gesture that might remind you of a more refined time. Just don’t get too caught up and accidentally call your flight attendant Jeeves when you order a glass of wine to go with it.

Hawaiian Airlines’ mai tais, meals, and chips

You’d expect everyone to be really nice in Hawaii — the whole living-in-an-island-paradise thing does something to your brain. That good-natured friendliness extends all the way to 30,000 feet, where flight attendants dole out complimentary meals and snacks two hours before landing. The service is part of the airline’s “Mea Ho’okipa” hospitality program (meaning “I am host”), and is an opportunity to showcase foods and snacks that are made in Hawaii, such as Maui Style Potato Chips, wine selected by Hawaiian master sommelier Chuck Furuya, and Koloa Rum Mai Tais.

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