The free perks you didn't know about for long-haul economy flights

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Deborah Cicurel
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A long-haul flight can be unpleasant at the best of times, even if you're prepared with the requisite huge scarf, iPad loaded up with Game of Thrones and eye mask to make you nod off to sleep.

Chances are that your plea for an upgrade won't work, the plane will be delayed and you'll be sitting next to a screaming baby.

So we've grilled insiders from a series of major airlines to find out how you can maximise your chances of getting great perks on a long-haul, economy class flight.

From Swiss chocolates to in-flight Bloody Marys, there's a stream of little-known benefits out there - and most of the time, all you need to do is ask.

Unexpected extra: Bloody Marys

British Airways is one of the most popular airlines across the world, and pride themselves not only on their wide range of destinations, but also on their cabin crew's friendly outlook, which will hopefully help you secure a few of these perks.

They say: "Every customer receives a cushion, blanket, complimentary pair of headphones and dental kit, and we also offer eye shades and socks for customers who request them. Top tip – if you fancy a Virgin Mary or a Bloody Mary then it’s worth asking the crew, as they can make it up for you. They carry tomato juice and Tabasco sauce, but you might not realise it."

Unexpected extra: moisturisers and travel adaptors

Singapore Air has gone from strength to strength since its creation in 1972, spanning a network spread over six continents. Singapore Air was the first airline to offer free headsets, a choice of meals and free drinks in economy class, and their perks continue to lead the field  today.

They say: "There are pillows and blankets on all seats as you board but there are extras if they are needed – so it’s always worth asking! If the aircraft is not full, airline staff may be able to find extras from other seats to share. Honeymoon/anniversary/birthday cakes can be ordered with Singapore Airlines in all classes - just let us know 24 hours before you travel and we will try our best to accommodate. Eye-masks and earplugs are available from crew subject to availability and on request - additional items like hair brushes, razors, moisturisers and mouthwash are also available. It’s not common knowledge that adaptors can be requested from the airline crew - it’s not uncommon that travellers forget these, so we’re happy to provide. Crew also have on board extra items like playing cards, collectible postcards and other items that can help pass the time. Once again, just ask!"

Unexpected extra: Wireless streaming to your own laptop or iPad

Air Canada is Canada's largest airline and services nearly 200 destinations worldwide, and we love that they offer in-seat power for your laptop and a USB port for charging, as we always seem to run out of juice on the flight. But what other techy delights do they have in store?

They say: "Air Canada rouge aircraft feature the complimentary use of player, an innovative wireless streaming in-flight entertainment system, enabling customers to stream films, TV programmes, music and destination information direct to their personal electronic devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones."

Unexpected extra: chocolate

Swiss is well-known for its efficiency, comfort and geographical range - but how do we get our hands on one of those delightful Swiss chocolates?

They say: "The passengers get extra blankets and pillows on long-haul flights in Economy Class. There's no harming in asking if they can get an extra Swiss milk chocolate (or three)!"

Unexpected extra: An additional item of baggage (sports equipment) 

Virgin Atlantic has always been a great choice for a comfortable long-haul flight, and according to insiders in the know, there are all sorts of perks you can enjoy - as long as you know to ask for them.

They say: "There are generally spare blankets and pillows around, so definitely ask a crew member and they will see what they can do. We give out amenity kits on night flights, but if you want to get some sleep or freshen up in the day our crew have a supply they can provide. Also, customers are very welcome to order extra food and drink or walk up to the galley to chat to the crew and they will always help you. Also, if you are travelling with a baby and need milk warmed up, the crew will do it for you! Lastly, if you are travelling with sports equipment (golf clubs, bike) you can carry an item free on top of your checked baggage."

Unexpected extra: Self-serve grazing snacks

Qantas is the third-oldest airline in the world, and flies around the world to a huge number of destinations, carrying 15% of passengers travelling in and out of Australia. Our favourite thing about them is that they offer different meal categories, including a meal inspired by the route itself, such as Smoky BBQ Beef on its U.S flights. Comfort food all the way... 

They say: "Economy passengers can pre-order their meal online with access to an exclusive fourth dish. Passengers can take advantage of self-serve grazing options during the flight which include pulled beef sliders with capsicum and tomato relish, Maltesers and fresh fruit."

Unexpected extra: Extra blankets to snuggle up in

Flying to several destinations across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Australia, Royal Brunei airlines is expanding rapidly and offers some great perks for long-haul flights in economy.

They say: "We offer economy fliers extra blankets, unlimited soft drinks and snacks and even announcements in-flight when passengers are celebrating a special occasion."

Images: ThinkStock

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Deborah Cicurel

Deborah Cicurel is a freelance journalist who writes about everything from lifestyle and travel to fashion and entertainment. She loves spicy maki rolls, cosy socks and visiting far-flung destinations, and is unable to walk past a dog on the street without stopping to befriend it.