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Airline Amenity Kits: Are They a Wasteful and Unnecessary Luxury Which Are Ripe for Disruption?

Airline Amenity Kits: Are They a Wasteful and Unnecessary Luxury Which Are Ripe for Disruption?

Premium airline passengers have certain expectations – a slap-up four-course meal on fine china, a nice wide seat that converts into a fully-flat bed and of course, an extensive range of in-flight entertainment options for those long intercontinental flights.  Oh, and let’s not forget the airline amenity kit – a little bag of essential goodies that no discerning traveller could do without.

Or could they?  Because let’s be honest, while many full-service airlines wouldn’t dream of ditching the amenity kit, the use your average passengers gets from one probably doesn’t justify either the expense or the waste.

The quality and contents of these little kits can vary greatly from airline to airline.  It would be a surprise not to find at least an eyeshade, pair of flight socks, pen, earplugs and dental kit.  That’s where the contents list might stop for an Economy or Premium Economy cabin amenity kit (for the few remaining airlines that stock them).

Lufthansa's new Premium Economy kits can be used over and over again - a concept they could easily extend to Business and First Class. Photo Credit: Lufthansa
Lufthansa’s new Premium Economy kits can be used over and over again – a concept they could easily extend to Business and First Class. Photo Credit: Lufthansa

For passengers in the pointy end of the plane, expect a luxury moisturiser and lip balm as well as maybe even a little bottle of essential oil to aid that all-important sleep.  Some airlines might even include a plastic hairbrush and razor, perhaps even mouthwash and deodorant

And now’s there a trend to include bottles of high-end perfume – Etihad is the latest airline to jump on the fragrance bandwagon with its collaboration with Acqua di Parma, although the Abu Dhabi-based airline is far from the only carrier offering such a luxury to its well-heeled passengers.

The amenity kit has become an airline status symbol and frequent flyers are quick to judge.

But how much use is the average passenger getting out of an amenity kit?  As a flight attendant, I regularly see half-used amenity kits discarded at the end of a flight.  The ones found still to be in immaculate condition will be recycled – the rest will be sent to landfill.  Most of the contents, often completely unused, are destroyed.

United has partnered with Clean the World to repackage unused amenity kit contents and distribute them to people in need. Photo Credit: United
United has partnered with Clean the World to repackage unused amenity kit contents and distribute them to people in need. Photo Credit: United

In fairness, some airlines are attempting to make better use of half-used amenity kits.  United, in particular, repackages the contents for use by charities – the repurposed kits are then sent to homelessness projects and even further afield for use by vulnerable people who have nothing else.

And what of the amenity kits which are actually taken off a plane?  Chances are, the majority gather dust, never to be seen or used again.  A nice but wasteful momento – like Delta’s Tumi branded hard box kit shown in the main photo.  After all, you only need one pouch or bag to store various charging cables in.

The sad reality is that unless you’re incredibly forgetful or disorganised, an airline amenity kit probably isn’t going to add much value to your flight – you’ll likely already have skincare products that you know work for your skin, you proabably already have an eye mask and who really needs a cheap plastic hairbrush?

Etihad's new amenity kit can transform in a bedside watch holder. Useful, the first time you receive it. Photo Credit: Etihad
Etihad’s new amenity kit can transform in a bedside watch holder. Useful, the first time you receive it. Photo Credit: Etihad

Instead, there are a handful of items which could well come in handy – but do they need to be given to every single passenger all wrapped up?  Singapore Airlines hands out individual items  – passengers can pick and choose from a wide selection of products which will enhance their journey.  The lavatories are well stocked but waste is massively reduced.

Lufthansa, too, has rethought the amenity kit (in Premium Economy at least), wrapping the contents in a reusable beach bag that not only has an obvious and longterm use after the flight but also does wonders as an almost free advertisement for the airline.

This isn’t about removing comforts from passengers but rather rethinking how they should be gifted – and whether we, as passengers, need to take something even if it won’t add any value to our lives.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small change but one that can make a real difference.

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