Late last year, Etihad Airways took the fairly controversial decision to start selling a range of onboard amenities, as well as snacks, premium coffee and Champagne. Starting at just $4 USD for a small bottle of cold brew coffee, the range of buy onboard goodies also included the airline’s Christian Lacroix branded premium amenity kits and sleepwear.
But rather than enhancing the travel experience as was intended, some observers thought the move was actually diluting the Etihad brand. After all, Etihad markets itself as a ‘5 Star’ full-service airline – surely passengers shoudn’t have to pay to make their long-haul flight more comfortable? Especially when it came to buying snack boxes for those peckish moments in between meal services.
Some frequent flyers who had spent large sums of money or points to travel in Etihad’s premium cabins also felt aggrieved when they found the Christian Lacroix amenity kits being heavily promoted on Etihad’s in-flight entertainment for purchase by Economy Class passengers.
It’s no secret that Etihad has found itself in a dire financial situation and as a result, the airline has been thinking of ever more inventive ways to make money from its passengers. That’s a fairly cynical way to look at Etihad’s buy on board range but really, the Abu Dhabi-based airline is just taking a major trend in airfare pricing to the next logical level.
Spurred on by competition from low-cost operators, the likes of Etihad and other full-service competitors are handing more control to passengers by “unbundling” fares – the argument being that passengers pay for the services they need while saving money on the things they don’t need.
Expect to hear more and more airline marketing departments telling us it’s about allowing passengers to “personalise” and ” take control” of their journey.
Charging for advanced seat selection or for a seat which offers extra legroom isn’t popular but it’s nothing new. Etihad has already innovated in this area by charging passengers to secure spare seats while also trialling an upgrade bidding tool.
Other airlines are expanding hand luggage only fares, sometimes known as basic economy. Sir Tim Clark, the President of Emirates has even suggested creating a separate ‘Basic Economy’ cabin alongside a Premium Economy cabin.
Oman Air will copy Etihad and start a buy onboard range
And now, Oman Air has decided to join Etihad in selling amenity kits and other products onboard a select number of flights. The airline says the range has been launched to coincide with Eid but we wouldn’t be surprised if Oman Air continues to sell these items after the festive season.
Oman Air hasn’t yet disclosed how much the various goodies will cost – simply saying they’ll be a nominal price. The items include an amenity kit, sleepwear and slippers – other unspecified Oman Air branded merchandise will also be available.
“Oman Air is always looking at new ways to give our guests more choice and value to build their personalised journey,” explains Oman Air’s Xia Cai.
“In addition to providing extra comfort and choice in the air, some of the items are great gift ideas, particularly in the run-up to the holiday season. We will monitor guest satisfaction and aim to expand the range of items for sale in the future.”
It’s interesting to see Cai’s statement almost mirroring that of Etihad’s when they launched their own buy on board range.
But is it worth the money? Unless you’re particularly fond of the relatively unknown Omani skincare brand, Amouage we can’t help but think it would be far better to bring our own toiletries onboard at a fraction of the price.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.