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The Very Finest & Oddest Collectible Airline Swag

Sometimes, the best souvenirs are often found at a time and place that is completely unexpected. Although the budget-conscious nature of modern air travel doesn’t offer an environment likely to provide a lasting keepsake, for those with a passion for flying, a designer amenity kit or even a first-class dining menu will trump a destination-specific t-shirt or snow globe every time.


KLM Delft Blue Houses

klm delft blue houses (photo: klm(

For more than a half century, KLM has presented its elite flyers with miniature versions of traditional Dutch houses. Even better, the collectible Delft Blue Houses come filled with genever, a dutch gin.

Wildly popular, these ceramic keepsakes are the ultimate in airline swag and have inspired fervor among connoisseurs that is usually reserved for trading cards and stamp collections. The airline has introduced a new collectible house every year since the 1950s.

KLM has even released an app to help traders and collectors keep track of more than six decades of Delft Blue House issues. In 2009, the Dutch carrier published a book in honor of the airline’s 90th anniversary detailing each adorable gin-filled miniature produced thus far.


Pinched From Virgin Atlantic

virgin atlantic salt and pepper shakers (photo: virgin)

Strictly speaking, stolen property does not qualify as a collectible airline memento, but an exception can be made for Virgin Atlantic’s “Wilbur and Orville” airplane-shaped salt and pepper shakers.

According to the airline, the company’s accountants urged company officials to discontinue the oft-stolen tableware as a cost savings measure. Instead, Virgin Atlantic embraced the notion that passengers found the salt shakers irresistible and began printing the words “pinched from Virgin Atlantic” on the tiny salt and pepper shakers.

So feel free to smuggle Wilbur and Orville in your carry-on bag — the airline doesn’t consider it theft, they consider it “one of the most successful promotions Virgin Atlantic has ever done.”


Concorde Kitsch

concorde flask (photo: ebay)

Even for those of us not fortunate enough to have flown aboard the super-sonic Concorde aircraft, the halcyon days of faster than sound commercial air travel still captures our imagination. It’s not surprising that memorabilia from the iconic aircraft is much sought after by both those who are lucky enough to have soared across the Atlantic at Mach-2 and those who can only dream of flying on the storied SST.

Dining menus, silverware, swizzle sticks and even napkins can fetch a pretty price on online auctions and airline memorabilia conventions, but perhaps the most premium collectible ever was offered to British Airways Concorde passengers — a pewter flask engraved with the Concorde crest. This was surely a handy item in the days when faster than sound travel and carrying more than 3.4 ounces of liquid through security were still possibilities.


Lufthansa Pickled Herring Pot


It’s hard to believe, but Lufthansa once offered ceramic pots of pickled herring to its first-class passengers. The in-flight pickled herring service program eventually fell victim to fuel economy concerns over stocking a heavy cargo of salty fish vessels on daily flights, but the mystique surrounding Lufthansa’s herring pots continues to this day.

This seldom-seen collectible hasn’t been used during meal service for decades and is an even rarer find primarily due to the fact that it was considerably more challenging to smuggle a ceramic herring pot off a plane in one’s handbag than it is to smuggle home a pair of tiny collectible salt and pepper shakers.


Air Force One M&M’s

air force one m&ms (photo: reuters)

“Air Force One” is not the name of the Boeing 747 passenger jet painted with the Presidential Seal and at the disposal of the leader of the free world. The moniker Air Force One is actually the call sign for any Air Force plane that the POTUS happens to be traveling on.

Semantics aside, flying on the President’s personal plane has some undeniable perks. There is plenty of legroom, even for those not elected to the highest office in the land and onboard meals prepared by White House chefs are rumored to be somewhat tastier than typical airline fare, but the most sought-after badge of honor that proves passengers had a seat on the most elite flight of all is a uniquely American confection. Passengers invited to fly on Air Force One are treated to a limited edition box of M&M’s complete with the current White House occupant’s autograph and embossed with the Presidential Seal.


Airsick in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

barf bags on virgin atlantic

In an ideal world, airsickness bags would never be used for their intended purpose and are better enjoyed as light reading for a brief in-flight distraction. With this in mind, Virgin Atlantic produced a series of Star Wars themed airsick bags just in time for the upcoming relaunch of the popular movie franchise.

The limited edition barf bags contain helpful lessons for prospective Jedi warriors, including, “Light Saber Etiquette” and “The Art of Jedi Combat.” One bag even offers tips on what to do in situations in which Jedi and Sith warriors, bitter enemies in a galaxy far far away, find themselves sharing an exit row together. Given the collectible nature of Star Wars themed items, it seems likely these in-flight vomit receptacles will only increase in value.


Riches on the Inaugural Dreamliner Flight

first 787 flight cookie (photo: airchive)

It seems reasonable that passengers who bid tens of thousands of dollars to be on the inaugural commercial flight of the brand-new Boeing Dreamliner in 2011 would want a keepsake to remind them that they were the very first to enjoy the perks of flying on the revolutionary new plane, and it’s safe to say they were not disappointed.

The very lucky and very rich who were onboard when the first Dreamliner flight departed Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) scored almost as much swag as a red carpet participant at the Oscars. All Nippon Airways, which gave its frequent flyers a chance to buy tickets for the historic flight through a lottery, presented everyone with an official boarding certificate suitable for framing, Dreamliner clothing accessories, wooden Japanese puzzle boxes and even a special ANA 787 Dreamliner fortune cookie.


[Photos: KLM; Virgin Atlantic; eBay; Airline: Identity, Design and Culture; Reuters; ANA via Airchive]

Comments are Closed.
cestmoi123 August 24, 2015

Those Virgin Atlantic salt and pepper shakers are great, particularly the "pinched from" on the bottom. Always makes me grin, and removes any desire to steal them.