The premium offerings onboard airlines’ first class cabins are seemingly unlimited, and range from Michelin chef-crafted dishes and exclusive wines to very creative amenity kits stocked with the best skincare essentials from top luxury brands; luxury accessories for in-flight entertainment; exclusive temperature-controlled cabins with lie-flat seats; bathrooms with shower stalls and bidets, amongst others.
For frequent first class passengers, choosing to fly commercial does not mean sacrificing all the luxe comforts they are accustomed to, and airlines do not hold back in providing all the premium benefits that keep them coming back. But sometimes, premium can be quirky, and some airlines have proven that even this is not a challenge with their unusual first class souvenirs which they sometimes extend to their business class cabins.
KLM’s Delft Blue House
No story of unusual first class souvenirs would be complete without the mention of KLM’s gin-filled ceramic delft blue houses, a truly collectible item that manages to give physical and psychological benefits all at once.
Since 1952, KLM Dutch Airlines has remained consistent in giving out these miniature gin-filled houses to passengers in its premium cabins. Although the houses have retained their blue-and-white signature colourway as well as the Delftware pottery style associated with the eponymous Dutch city since the mid-17th century, production times and the manner of obtaining them have evolved.
“Production was random until 1994,” explains a KLM representative. “[Back then] a number of houses were produced one after another, then none for several years. An extra 15 houses were produced in 1994 in honour of KLM’s 75th anniversary. This brought the number to exactly 75 and the number of houses in the series has kept pace with KLM’s age ever since.”
Today, there are a total of 103 houses, which are now released on October 7 each year to mark the airline’s birthday. Each house has a unique story: for example, house 103 is a miniature of the Ecury House in Oranjestad, Aruba, the family home of the Ecury family that contributed significantly to the development of aviation in Aruba.
How do modern-day collectors grow their stash? In a nod to the times, passengers in the airline’s business cabin visit the dedicated Delft Blue Houses app once the flight attendants come out with the ceramic souvenirs on trays. There, they will cross-reference the numbers on the back of the houses on display to ensure that they’re only adding a fresh model to their collection.
It is not certain who has the most houses in their collection, but, per KLM, houses No 76, 48, and the earliest houses 1-10 are some of the most sought-after pieces among collectors.
Lufthansa’s Rubber Ducks
Lufthansa may not have the storied history of KLM’s Delft houses, but its rubber ducks are certainly more unusual than gin-filled ceramic replicas of historic homes.
According to the word flying around, it all started around 2004 when the airline opened its first class terminal in Frankfurt. One of the perks was the shower suites, and in the one with a bathtub, someone had thought it wise to place a rubber deck there. But then it was taken, and the airline replaced it. And then it got taken again and was replaced again, until the airline realised that passengers really love their rubber ducks, and so they turned it into a souvenir first class passengers could take home with them from the lounge.
So far, Lufthansa has decked its first class terminal with different types of ducks. There have been Christmas ducks, Oktoberfest ducks, FIFA World Cup ducks and even coronavirus ducks!
If you would love to start your own Lufthansa duck collection, the process is rather simple. Just visit the airline’s first class lounges in Munich or Frankfurt, and request your own squishy gift from the assistants. They would be more than happy to grant your request.
Emirates’ collectable toys and bags for young flyers
Emirates’ offering isn’t so quirky, but their latest first class souvenirs are not so common, and so they deserve a spot on this list.
Unlike the other two airlines on this list, their collectible amenity kits are not for all passengers flying premium but are reserved for their young passengers only, up until the age of 12.
Made from sustainable materials, the kits are grouped into three: the first is for babies 0-2 years and is geared more towards the parents than the child. It includes a reusable changing mat, diaper cream and cleansing wipes, a keepsake wipe-clean bib, a soothing vibrating plush toy and collectable ‘blanket buddies’, where an Emirates character soft toy representing a pilot or cabin crew is offered alongside a soft blanket to ensure a sweet night’s sleep. All these are in a colourful bag with hand-drawn artwork representing “the people, places, and cultures that Emirates airline serves in its global route network of 140 destinations.”
The kit for kids aged 3-6 years is way different. They are given a multi-use belt bag, larger backpack, or generous duffle bag that contain an engaging ‘Fly with Me’ activity pack with its colouring pencils, kid-friendly world maps, puzzles, drawing tutorials, colouring pages, educational activities about Dubai and protecting the environment.
For children between the ages of 7 to 12, they would be walking off the flight with reusable belt bags, larger backpacks, or generous duffle bags – designed with subtle and cool graphics that appeal to their age group.
The next time you’re on any one of these flights, look out – you just might be walking off with a quirky, lifelong artefact that might become a family heirloom. And if you would not be flying with any one of these anytime soon? Ask the attendants at the first class lounge or those in-flight. Who knows? You just might be walking off the flight with your own unusual, collectible souvenir.