How airlines can help you celebrate special occasions

How airlines can help you celebrate special occasions

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.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • fxdxdy


    16 Jun, 2017 07:52 am

    And do the same for hotels.
    They'll normally lay on a few treats as well.
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  • jubbing


    16 Jun, 2017 09:32 am

    Indeed, when I was at the Palazzo Manfredi (Rome) over my birthday  - I didn't mention anything but upon check-in, they noticed and sent a bottle of Prosecco along with some sweet treats to the room and a signed card. It was all very unexpected and lovely.
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  • sgb


    16 Jun, 2017 09:34 am

    Fruit baskets and flowers are nice.
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  • Newbie7


    16 Jun, 2017 10:02 am

    Chris (and the general AusBT public), would you suggest this to be the same for gay couples traveling on their honeymoon? I'd be tempted not to say anything on an ME3 carrier, despite I'm sure them having plenty of LGBT flight attendants, just because of the nature of their respective home countries. But was wondering, if say pre-ordering a honeymoon cake on SQ, do you think it would cause contention once they saw us onboard that it wasn't a man/woman couple? It would be nice to have a cake onboard but don't want to make an awkward scene either. Guessing if QF had an official cake policy they'd be completely fine but! Thanks :)
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  • Chris Chamberlin


    16 Jun, 2017 10:16 am

    Hi Newbie7, I'd like to think you'd be fine and that in 2017 this wouldn't bat an eyelid from the airlines or crew - but of course, if any AusBT readers have any personal experiences to share in this regard, please do so. :)

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  • Flying Fish


    16 Jun, 2017 10:40 pm

    Newbie7 I've actually seen an SQ CSM bring out cake and champagne for a lesbian couple returning to Australia after their wedding in Spain on a flight from MAD to SIN.  My husband and I had a wonderful experience with EK and QF. My husband casually mentioned the reason for his trip to Paris was to meet me there for our wedding when he was checking in with EK (admittedly my husband is an EK IO cardholder, so he gets a lot of VIP treatment anyway and was travelling F), but the cabin crew still went out of their way and presented him with a bottle of vintage champagne, a couple of boxes of chocolates and a lovely card signed by all the crew.  On our return trip to Australia after our wedding and honeymoon the Captain on our QF flight out of LHR stopped by to personally congratulate us and then on our flight from DXB to SYD the CSM gave us a bottle of champagne and a card signed by the crew.  We had said nothing about the reason for our travel when checking in with QF at LHR for our flights home so the EK check-in agent in Sydney must have put a note in my husband's booking that was picked up by QF when we checked in at LHR and then relayed to the crew.  We were very impressed by these unexpected gestures and recognition.
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  • Flying Fish


    16 Jun, 2017 10:42 pm

    Oops, sorry @Newbie7, I should have made it clear that my husband and I are same-sex couple
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  • Newbie7


    17 Jun, 2017 02:50 am

    Thanks AWA2602! That's great to hear. Really impressive on part of EK/QF too, they really went above and beyond on that one for the return. Great to hear that's the case, and glad you guys got to enjoy such an awesome honeymoon experience as well!
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  • banker


    16 Jun, 2017 12:53 pm

    Hi Newbie7 and Chris, I can confirm that some airlines and crew are amazing to any couple. Three years ago me and my husband mentioned on board of CX J flight SYD-HKG that this our trip to honeymoon and they surprised us with card with messages from crew and box of chocolate. 
    This April we traveled on SQ F flight SYD-SIN on the day of my birthday and my husband called them before. Cabin crew came with cake on decorated set and signed card. They were amazing!
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  • banker


    16 Jun, 2017 01:13 pm

    Hi, just to confirm, if it wasn't clear from my above badly formatted post, we are gay couple so Newbie7, feel free to give SQ reservation call and talk to them. My husband confirmed that they were very helpful.
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  • Newbie7


    17 Jun, 2017 02:53 am

    Hi @banker, thanks for the info! Great to hear that everyone's having nothing but positive experiences when it comes to traveling on special occasions sounds like. I'll definitely be giving SQ a call then!
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  • MissBasset


    16 Jun, 2017 01:27 pm

    I achieved a 'mile-stone' birthday on a day I flew Qantas in January, but despite Gold status and a lounge visit, no acknowledgement at all. I did not solicit any attention, being a modest person, but do enjoy pleasant surprises.
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  • danny hibbett

    danny hibbett

    16 Jun, 2017 06:11 pm

    Same here MissBasset in a similar scenario.  Nothing from QF on my 50th birthday, was a little disappointed not to at least say happy birthday. 
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  • Mark Pannell


    16 Jun, 2017 01:58 pm

    I was in the Silver Kris lounge on my birthday last year, and to my surprise several of the staff arrived with a cake and sang "happy birthday" to me
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  • billposters


    16 Jun, 2017 02:30 pm

    I'm QF Gold - flying QF economy SYD-SIN last year on my birthday, the CSM turned up at my seat with a bottle of bubbly. Hadn't dropped any hints or made any mention at all, but it was a lovely gesture.
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  • Rkwm


    16 Jun, 2017 02:59 pm

    Interesting . Been a CX Marco Polo Diamond and Gold member supporting the airline for 26 years . Travelled on my Birthday 11 times over the years and never once been upgraded or acknowledged ... maybe the upgrade is not applied in December !!!!
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  • Yanni


    16 Jun, 2017 04:07 pm

    I just called Singapore Airlines and was able to very easily organise an anniversary cake for my parents flying Suites next week from SIN-ZRH. Took less than 5 minutes and they were more than accomodating!
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  • dwightwick


    16 Jun, 2017 04:15 pm

    Flew QR F DOH>SYD in April on my Birthday and they suprised me after dinner with birthday cake and a song. Was very impressed!
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  • Dredgy


    16 Jun, 2017 05:07 pm

    Yeah, surprised QR didn't get a mention, I flew DOH-AUH (back in the good old days when that was possible) and they also surprised me with cake. Was seated in Y, but on a J ticket.
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  • tlukec


    16 Jun, 2017 04:33 pm

    For my birthday this year in May, congratulations and a QF J amenity kit flying SYD-SIN in Y, and a birthday cake & card in my room at the Oasia Downtown Singapore. Both unprompted, both a lovely touch!
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  • gravity


    16 Jun, 2017 05:02 pm

    Hi AusBT readers
    Anyone know if Etihad will do anything like this? Travelling in J class next month with the partner for a special occasion.
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  • Ross


    16 Jun, 2017 06:43 pm

    Flew F on EY DXB-MEL last year and was wished and sung HB in the lounge with a cake and wished HB on board. Biggest problem was my daughter was with me (7) and now expects it will happen to her!
    Member who gave thanks


  • Ross


    16 Jun, 2017 06:43 pm

    That should have read AUH-MEL....
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  • Gail Faux


    16 Jun, 2017 09:32 pm

    I was actually booked to be flying with QF on my 50th in August as I thought it would be great way to spread my special day out for 36 hrs, but thanks to scheduling changes out of Brisbane I've now got to fly the day before and will miss getting birthday wishes from my family on the actual day.  Wonder if I drop a hint in the lounge they may make an exception
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  • silvyvc


    19 Jun, 2017 05:22 pm

    Thanks for the hint Chris! Just booked the cake for my anniversary trip next August to NZ. When I talked to them about champagne they wanted to charge 95 USD per bottle... thought it would be smarter to use the in flight bar! 
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25 May, 2018 09:05 pm

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