Which airlines offer free food and entertainment?

Photo of Steph MarinkovicPhoto of Steph Marinkovic
By Steph Marinkovic

4 April 20197 min read

Interior view of an empty plane with tv screens for each passenger seat

A handful of pretzels, some easy viewing, things to keep the kids busy…sometimes, it’s the little things that can make or break a flight.

The further you fly, the more likely these tiny touches will be complimentary, but the air can get a little murkier around mid- and short-haul flights.

So, we looked at 13 popular carriers to breakdown just what extras are included the cost of your ticket and which ones you’ll have to pay for.

What is inflight entertainment?

Inflight entertainment (IFE) systems are exactly what it says on the box; they are a variety of media offered on a flight to keep you entertained.

Depending on your airline and the length of your flight, this could be anything from exclusive airline magazines or local newspapers to TVs in the headrests of the seats.

Some airlines also offer Wi-Fi on-board so you can stay connected while you fly. Others are making the switch from seatback entertainment systems (ie TVs in the seats) to video on demand streaming to your own device.

Which airline has the best inflight entertainment?

Emirates’ ice entertainment system is widely recognised as the best of the best. It’s taken home the World Airline Award for Best Airline Inflight Entertainment for 14 years running, thanks to its mix of new release and classic movies, TV shows, music and games.

The World Airline Awards, put on by airline reviews and ratings organisation, Skytrax, have also recognised the IFE offerings of Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas and Turkish Airlines as some of the best in the market.

Is inflight entertainment free?

Most inflight entertainment is included in the price of your ticket. The exception here is Wi-Fi, which is often a purchasable add-on.

Airlines will generally offer tiered packages on their Wi-Fi-enabled planes so you only pay for what you need. This could be as simple as a few megabytes for messaging friends to a few hundred for web browsing and online shopping.

Some airlines, such as Norwegian Air, may also charge a fee to access their video-on-demand service - especially on short-haul flights.

Which budget and mid-range airlines have free inflight entertainment?

The no-frills approach of budget airlines means you’re not likely to get a whole lot in terms of free inflight entertainment. After all, that’s how they their keep airfares low.

To make sure you know what you’re getting in the price of your ticket – and what you’ll need to pay for, we've compared the IFE systems and Wi-Fi capabilities of eight budget and mid-range airlines below. We’ve also thrown in whether kids can expect any complimentary extras, such as activity packs to keep them busy.

AirlineTV and Movies?Wi-Fi?Kids’ activity packs?
Jet2NoNoNo – but Jet2 offers a variety of kids’ toys to purchase on board
easyJetNoNoYes – kids’ snack packs, complete with puzzles and games, are free on all flights
Wizz AirNoNoNo
Norwegian AirYes – Video On Demand can be streamed to your device from €5 on most flights within Europe. Long-haul international flights have free seat-back entertainmentYes – on flights in Europe, to Argentina, the US and the Caribbean. Not available on long-haul international flightsNo
Aer LingusYes – but only on transatlantic flights No – but Wi-Fi plans start from £7.95 on transatlantic flightsNo – but Aer Lingus offers a variety of kids’ toys to purchase on board
TUI – flight onlyYes – on long-haul flights onlyNo – TUI do not currently have the capacity to offer Wi-Fi, free or paidNo – but TUI offers a variety of kids’ toys to purchase on board

Which larger and flag carriers have free inflight entertainment?

You can rest assured that the big carriers will take care of you on your long-haul flights. IFE systems, usually in the form of seatback screens, are standard among them all. Some also offer free Wi-Fi and for those travelling with kids, Etihad even have onboard nannies.

A limited number of these airlines provide IFE on shorter flights, too, which is something to consider when comparing flights. Check out the table below for more.

AirlineTV and Movies?Wi-Fi?Kids’ activity packs?
British AirwaysYes – but seat-back screens are only available on World Traveller flightsNo – but almost all planes offer Wi-Fi plans to purchaseYes – available for kids between 3 and 5 on flights longer than 2 hours
Virgin AtlanticYes – all flights offer entertainment on seat-back screensNo – but there are a range of Wi-Fi options to purchase on board. Prices vary by routeYes – on all flights departing the UK, kids under 11 will get a backpack filled with goodies including a colouring book, eye mask and socks, and pencils
EmiratesYes – seat-back entertainment is available across their entire fleetYes – you can enjoy 20MB for free on all flights. Prices vary after this limitYes – kids up to the age of 12 will receive an activity pack suited to their age. They can include activity books, toys, socks and more.
QantasYes – and on domestic (Australian) flights without seat-back entertainment systems, Qantas offer a free app to stream TV and moviesYes – you can get free Wi-Fi but only on selected domestic flightsYes – kids between 3 and 6 get a kids’ pack on all international and domestic flights
KLMYes – KLM offer free inflight entertainment on all intercontinental flightsNo – but you can purchase Wi-Fi on all their Boeing 787 DreamlinersYes – on intercontinental flights, kids over 2 receive a play set. On European flights, kids get a passport holder and activity book
EtihadYes – Etihad provide free TV shows, movies and games on all routes except ‘ultra-short-haul’ flightsNo – but you can purchase Wi-Fi in varying tiersYes – Etihad offer activity packs to kids over 3, plus long-haul flights have onboard nannies to keep the little ones entertained

Which airlines have free inflight meals?

Just like forgoing inflight entertainment, budget airlines also keep their costs low by charging for meals on-board.

Below, we detail how much you can expect to pay for a meal deal (a sandwich, drink and snack) or main meal on a variety of popular airlines as well as which airlines have free inflight meals.

Some larger and flag carriers also offer the option to ‘upgrade’ your complimentary meal, which you can pre-book and pay for online before you fly.

AirlineCan you get free meals on short-haul flights?Can you get free meals on long-haul flights?
Jet2Prices start at £7.50 for a meal dealN/A
RyanairPrices start at €9 (£7.70) for a meal dealN/A
easyJetPrices start at £7 or €9 for a meal dealN/A
Wizz AirPrices start at €6 (£5.15) for a meal dealN/A
Norwegian Air£6 for a hot meal on selected flights. Fresh food on other flights start at £4Meals and drinks are included on international long-haul flights for all travellers except LowFare ticket holders.
Aer LingusPrices start at €7.50 (£6.40) for a meal dealTravellers on transatlantic flights will receive a complimentary hot lunch with soft drinks and water, plus an evening snack.
TUI – flight onlyPrices start at £6.50 for a meal dealMeals and drinks are included on long-haul flights but additional snacks will need to be paid for.
British AirwaysSandwiches start at £3.90You will receive complimentary drinks, snacks and hot meal, followed by a lighter snack or breakfast just before landing.
Virgin AtlanticN/AYou will receive complimentary drinks, snacks and a hot meal, followed by a lighter snack or breakfast just before landing.
EmiratesComplimentary meals are included on all ticket types.Complimentary meals are included on all ticket types.
QantasComplimentary meals are included on all domestic (Australian) flights.Complimentary meals, drinks and snacks are included on all international flights.
KLMDepending on the length of the flight and departure time, you’ll receive either a complimentary snack, a fresh sandwich or a hot meal.Complimentary meals, drinks and snacks are included on all intercontinental flights.
EtihadExpect a range of complimentary meals based on flight duration and destination.Expect a range of complimentary meals based on flight duration and destination.

Things to remember when comparing complimentary extras on your flight

It pays to remember that inflight services are never ‘free’, as such. They are either built into the cost of your ticket or not.

Similarly, don’t write off the budget airlines that don’t offer all the entertainment extras – for some short-haul flights, you’ll be touching down before you can even get to the first big fight scene in the latest Marvel flick!

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