People travel for a number of different reasons, but perhaps the most exciting trips are those where you’re celebrating a special event, such as a birthday, wedding anniversary, honeymoon or even retirement.
Declaring as much at the check-in desk probably won’t get you upgraded – but some airlines including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Singapore Airlines have their own ways to help you celebrate your special day if you find yourself travelling.
Cathay Pacific: cake is an option
When Australian Business Traveller noticed “cake” listed as an ‘optional service’ on the Cathay Pacific website – but no further description surrounding said cake – we thought it best to investigate in the name of “research”.
It turns out that you can call Cathay Pacific reservations to pre-order a cake for your special trip, which the cabin crew will deliver to you (or your loved one) inflight. There’s a HKD$300 (A$50) fee attached, and you can choose the message that’s written on top, such as an easy “congratulations” in our case:
As a nice surprise above and beyond what was expected, the cabin crew and pilots on this particular flight also took time to handwrite a lovely greeting card alongside it…
… and closer to arrival, sent through a further round of congratulations as a pop-up message via the inflight entertainment system:
Cakes need to be ordered at least 24 hours prior to departure and can be served on both Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights.
Additionally, some top-tier Marco Polo Club frequent flyers have reported being upgraded on their birthdays, although this isn't what you'd call a 'published benefit' and isn't to be expected.
"We always strive to make our loyal Customers feel special," a Cathay Pacific spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller.
"Birthdays are joyous occasions and when a member has made arrangements to travel on the day of their birthday, our frontline colleagues will always try to “surprise and delight” them. However, there is no guarantee for upgrades."
Emirates: order a birthday, honeymoon or anniversary cake and Champagne
If you’re booked to fly with Emirates in business class or first class, you can contact the airline at least 24 hours before departure to order a complimentary birthday, honeymoon or anniversary cake – or if you’re booked in economy, you can do the same for a US$30 (A$40) charge.
You’ll be able to customise the message on top of the cake (for instance, “Happy birthday John” or “Congratulations!”) for delivery on your nominated Emirates flight: whether that’s departing Australia, Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok, Auckland or elsewhere in the Emirates network.
Furthermore, Emirates hints to Australian Business Traveller that “from time to time, Skywards members celebrating a special occasion are treated to a surprise and delight moment by the inflight service team to help them enjoy their special occasion,” beyond their usual onboard greeting.
Economy passengers are also able to purchase business class Champagne at a charge to help them celebrate, the cost of which may vary from flight to flight.
Qantas: it never hurts to drop a hint
Rather than an airline-wide ‘cake service’, some Qantas staff take their own initiative to help passengers celebrate – particularly those travellers with access to the Qantas First Lounges or other flagship international lounges.
For instance, when this writer made a passing mention of a special occasion in the Qantas Singapore Lounge, the staff member later returned with a celebratory brownie dessert from the kitchen, plus Champagne cocktails from the bar:
Certainly, it’s never something to be expected, but if you’re already flying at the pointy end or have lounge access (and therefore, more opportunity to chat with the crew or ‘lounge angels’), do mention why you’re travelling and be pleasantly surprised if anything comes of it.
Qantas also confirms to Australian Business Traveller that lead flight attendants – also known as Customer Service Managers – are alerted to passenger birthdays onboard via the 'RED app' on their crew iPad, and can use that information to offer an inflight birthday greeting.
Those birthday details are pulled from your Qantas Frequent Flyer profile, or can be added manually if a special request is received: such as for frequent flyers crediting their flights to Emirates Skywards and other partner programs which don't share birthday information with Qantas.
Singapore Airlines: request a celebration cake
Unlike Cathay Pacific and Emirates, Singapore Airlines keeps its celebration cakes hush-hush and makes no mention of them on its website – but if you happen to request one or drop a helpful hint to your travel agent, you may just find a cake of your own delivered to your seat:
This could be for your honeymoon, anniversary or birthday, and is sometimes served aside Champagne, keepsakes (such as the Star Wars toys above) and a card, depending on your crew:
Celebration cakes can normally be arranged in advance for most Singapore Airlines flights – including those from Australia but excluding shorter routes such as between Malaysia and Singapore – and tend to appear after the main meal service or closer to descent.
However, this isn’t like ordering a vegetarian meal or a ‘Book the Cook’ dish: it’s a special request that you can only make by telephoning Singapore Airlines reservations and asking politely, or through your travel agent.