Playing cards used to be the ubiquitous free item handed out on board a flight. These were the inflight entertainment back in the days before audio, movies and games.

You could not only play various card games, but you could make a house of cards like they are doing in the image at the top of this post. While that sounds like fun, sometimes the playing cards themselves were really cool too.

History of Flight Playing Cards

While searching for images for this post, I stumbled across these British Airways History of Flight cards. I immediately recognised them as I had a pack of these when I was a kid.

As I loved aeroplanes, I found them fascinating. Considering they have supremely detailed and accurate artist renderings of the planes, you can see why I liked them. They are also a handy way to learn to tell one aircraft from another.

Practicality With Braniff

In 1968, when Braniff decided to go groovy by painting their aircraft in bold colours, they also had Alexander Girard design the on board entertainment. These playing cards would have been quite useful for jet setters.

Featuring an English phrase, a picture and its Spanish and Portuguese equivalent, these cards could teach you basic phrases you might need on arrival. Now flicking through the cards to find out what you want might have delayed things, but still, better than nothing!

Celebrating the Airbus A380 at Thai Airways

While playing cards are largely a thing of the past when flying, they do make an appearance from time to time. Thai Airways celebrated their Airbus A380 with a set.

People report that airlines like Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific and others still give out cards on request. While not common it seems they are still available in some places, which is nice.

Overall Thoughts

That History of Flight set of playing cards from British Airways is really something else. Other airlines such as Pan Am featured cards with images of their destinations on each one. This kind of variety I really like as it makes the cards far more interesting.

It makes you wonder how many card sharps were on board aircraft back in the day. They were certainly present on ocean liners during the first half of the 20th century, but did they switch to air along with everyone else? Who knows.

Do you remember getting cards on board a flight? Got any recently? Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image via CNN Travel.
British Airways cards via Jassy-50 via Flickriver
Braniff cards by Paul Sorene via Flashbak.
Thai Airways cards via The World of Playing Cards.