Passengers obsess over the little things.
If Flight Chic reader interest is anything to go by (and I like to think that it is) then airlines should carefully review their soft goods offerings.
Inflight amenity kits are popular. (People want the dish on inflight meals too, but we’ll leave food for another time.)
A Slip and a Miss
Take the flying experience comments of Julie Zeveloff of Business Insider who recently compared her long-haul business class flying experiences between Emirates and Delta.
While Zeveloff had a lot of good things to say about both airlines, one slight disappointment really seemed to tip the scales: slippers, or the absence thereof.
Zeveloff mentioned Emirates’ menu once (so delicious, she said, she couldn’t wait to take pictures before eating). She also mentioned the airline’s state-of-the-art entertainment system. Once. Yet she mentioned Delta’s slippers three times in her article.
She found Delta’s TUMI inflight amenity kits attractive. They are stylish and covetable collectibles, but she also liked the Emirates amenity kits–except for the lack of slippers.
Of course, any review is subjective. Sometimes we have biases. Other times, we may be unable to recall all the details which pleased us throughout the journey. It’s often the things we don’t like that we remember.
Zeveloff wished she had Delta’s slippers on her Emirates flight because walking around the cabin while only wearing flight socks can be unpleasant.
In terms of cost, it’s a very small thing. Even when we consider the number of small articles that go missing in the industry, and the associated costs of ongoing replacement, it’s not much. Tallied against a cabin redesign, or ongoing cabin maintenance costs for airline business class, slippers a to Business class what are pretzels are to Economy. Less even.
Kids Travel First Class—Even in Economy
Zeveloff’s footwear disappointment aside, Emirates is winning the hearts of parents around the world with its children’s amenity kits.
One commenter here said (I’ve corrected small typos):
“Very good. I will travel in Emirates this July inshallah..my son will be happy in the flight….Thanks and nice ideas….”
Qatar Airways recently introduced new Buzz Products and Hasbro kid’s inflight amenity kits and announced their launch with an adorable video of Mr. Potato Head heading for his flight at Hammad International Airport.
What Finicky Flyers Want Most
Making air travellers happy is a difficult business. But, after putting in all that investment to debut new aircraft interiors cabin products, don’t slip-up by skipping slippers or ignoring the kiddies.
Yes. It’s an over simplification. A pair of practical slides in the aircraft seat pocket may not make all the difference in the world. But it might. And perhaps you remember that first flight when they gave you crayons and a nice activity book, or one of those tiny practical decks of cards which would fit perfectly on the tray table.
These treats become fixed in memory.
Building Brand through Inflight Gifting
(and maybe a little retail)
I believe the reason amenity kits matter so much to air travellers, and really help to define the airline brand, is that they are thoughtful gifts. Many people still have a tradition of gifting travellers and bringing back gifts from their travels. The two experiences are intertwined–far more than just transport and destination.
This opens up opportunities to connect brand to brand to lifestyle, to the senses, to pleasure.
United Airlines cross-branded with Cowshed spa for its range of pampering amenities on United Global First and United Business First cabins.
Those slippers are lovely and the little fabric zip bag—though simple when compared to a TUMI case—is definitely a keeper!
Japan Airlines may not have jumped on Star Wars branding like its rival ANA, but it still left passengers star-struck by partnering with ZERO HALLIBURTON limited-edition amenity kits. ZERO HALLIBURTON developed the aluminium cases used on Apollo 11 in 1969 to carry moon-rocks back to Earth.
EVA Air’s Sanrio partnership results in a veritable Hello Kitty overdose.
That includes nice take-home amenities—corresponding to aircraft theme and the season of the year.
EVA Air does a smart job of working in a bit of retail temptation with their dedicated Sanrio travel items available in flight and on their online shop.
When your location is everywhere you fly the three words left to remember are: merchandising, merchandising, merchandising.
Amenities can be merchandising too. Positioning the product exactly where a customer will need it when they need it is a great retail strategy, and we really don’t see more of that. If airlines sold kit items after take-off, I’d bet they’d find a few eager buyers.
Teague suggests something along these lines for its concept airline brand Poppi.
The team at Teague designed a host of retail goods for brand lifestyle alignment, or given to premium passengers as onboard comforts. Teague also considered the power of a well-placed gift.
Their proposal that airlines partner with brands to give middle seat passengers something to look forward to was brilliant, and well worth considering.
Some Gifts for the Weary
It’s also important to think about the rest of the cabin, especially now that load factors are high and passenger patience is low.
Qantas has aligned its brand with customer lifestyle and recently introduced a new, simple but very desirable amenity kit for its (proper) Premium Economy cabin. The airline collaborated with Australian lifestyle brand Country Road.
As Phil Capps, Qantas’ Head of Product and Service Development, explains, the new Country Road amenity kit is the pleasant little detail which garnishes the Premium Economy experience perfectly.
“We love what Country Road does and we’re really proud to partner with such an iconic brand to give our customers around the world an authentic Australian experience when they fly with us,” said Capps.
“Premium Economy is one of our most popular cabins and appeals to customers who want a little indulgence at a reasonable price, so we continue to look for ways to improve their travel experience and often it’s the little things that count.” —Phil Capps, Qantas
“We have always offered comfort items in Premium Economy, but we wanted to add an extra bit of luxury with the new Country Road amenity kit, which customers can use after the flight as a make-up bag, pouch for a smart-phone or personal earphones and the like,” Capps added.
Delight and be Remembered
Sometimes a little gift goes a long way to build positive brand memory for the customer.
I recall falling in love with Virgin Atlantic the minute I first time I ever stepped foot onboard one of their flights and was surprised by one of their practical Feel Good wash bags with basic amenities. This was in the 90s but, to their credit, Virgin Atlantic have kept up with this generous and caring practice.
It’s a silly thing, perhaps, but much as I’ve flown, I don’t think I was ever as delighted as the first time I boarded Virgin and found that nifty and light-hearted kit on my seat with clever names for every little thing. It made the airline suddenly relatable. It fit my lifestyle well. I didn’t mind sitting in the back seats at all. (Though, admittedly, I have very rarely minded).
Etihad Airways introduced smart and simple amenity kits for its Reimagined Economy cabin, which is icing on cake. The airline also worked some destination marketing into its newest Business class amenity kits with limited-edition LUXE city guides.
While visiting the Aircraft Interiors Expo this April in Hamburg, make time for soft goods.
Take your comfortable shoes for a walk through the exhibits at the World Travel Catering and Onboard Services Expo and check out the amenity suppliers.
Wessco introduced Philippe Starck amenity kits at the show last year last year, which drew a lot of attention with their modern and alternative design.
There will also be nibbles at WTCE all day long, as chefs show off inflight menus. Just thought I’d mention.
TravelPlus also recognises the best airline amenity kits in the skies during its award ceremonies which take place on April 5 in Hamburg.