Being a collector for about 4 months already, I know most of the ways to get things from airlines. My advice is to start with a small airline, nothing large. Don't ask the majors until you get use to it. Once you get the hang of it, you will know exactly what to say to them. How long does it take? Well it all depends on the airline. Some will send things pretty fast. Some others might take a while. If an airline doesn't send you anything after a month and a half, send something to them again. What kind of stuff can you get? Well it depends on what you are interested in. You can get postcards, timetables, in-flight mags, safety cards, and if you are lucky, a model!. But don't ask for models as they might think you just want that and arn't interested in their airline. If they know that you are interested, they will just send it to you. I don't think JAL or ANA send anything. You could give it a try though. If you get a no from airlines, keep trying. Never give up. There are many airlines out there who will be more than happy to help you with your collection. There are others who will just give you a straight no. Getting things from airlines is free. There are a few that might tell you that if you want something, buy it from there online store. When I get those replies, I just ignore that airline and move on to the next. Does it matter how you ask? Yes it does matter. Try and be as polite as you can. The more you act polite, the better chance they will send you something. I suggest e-mail. Snail mail will take forever. Some airlines don't have e-mail addresses so you might have to write. Language? English of course. Most of the, if not all, airlines out there understand the language of english.
Well that's about all the advice I have for you. If you have anymore questions, e-mail me and I will be more than happy to answer whatever questions you might have. My e-mail address is in the user info if you need it. Good luck with your collection!
-Wilsam (WiL SW737)