Frequent American Airlines flyers are taking to online forums to share their displeasure with the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier’s latest update to its inflight Business Class amenity kit… new eco-friendly packaging.
A spokesperson for the airline confirmed that the new amenity kits – presented in a recyclable cardboard box with American Airlines Flagship branding – are currently being tested on a number of premium long-haul routes, although the airline wasn’t able to immediately provide further details about the trial.
The seemingly worthy ambitions of the biodegradable packaging, however, does not appear to have been well received by AA’s community of frequent flyers who have blasted the move as nothing more than extreme cost-cutting.
The general argument is that if an airline doesn’t offer a plastic or faux-leather (plastic) amenity kit, then frequent flyers will no longer have a receptacle to store their cables and medications when traveling.
The discourse largely ignores the fact that Qatar Airways – which boasts a slew of recent awards for its best-in-class premium class products – offers amenity kits in cardboard boxes on flights to Doha.
In the case of Qatar Airways, the kits are, at least, packed with goodies from luxury French perfumier Diptyque, but there’s no getting around the fact that the contents are presented in a cardboard box.
Some frequent flyers, however, admit that they have collected more than enough plastic amenity kits from their travels and that many sit idle, taking up space in cupboards with little hope of ever actually being used again. In other words, most amenity kits go to waste.
The same, it could be argued, could be said about the contents of amenity kits. Yes, it’s nice to get an eyeshade and a pair of socks, but how many do you actually need? Eyeshades, at least, aren’t once used only and can last for years.
As for dental kits – why aren’t you traveling with a toothbrush in the first place? Surely, you already have one in your bag, and if not, please don’t admit that to your dentist.
In many ways, amenity kits are a product of a bygone age, but any attempt to change the status quo is going to be viewed through a lens of cost-cutting… this thought process probably isn’t helped by the fact that many airlines take exactly this view.
There are, though better ways to provide amenity kit items while still providing a luxury experience.
I, for one, won’t likely need a cheap disposable dental kit when I travel, but if I lose my toothbrush, then a supply of dental kits in a drawer in the lavatory would be a good way of providing this amenity to people who require it.
The same could be said of eyeshades, flight socks, earplugs, and the like – letting passengers pick what they need from a basket presented by a flight attendant would reduce waste while still giving customers the items they require for the flight.
As for the creams you often find in amenity kits, these are often a good way to create a brand partnership that aligns with the premium experience an airline wants to exude.
The Qatar Airways x Diptyque partnership is a good case in point, although how much you actually need these products is questionable. A good partnership allows you to sample retail-quality products that you might then go on to buy, but many airlines offer inferior or niche products that will go to waste.
I don’t want to smother my face in a cream that isn’t suitable for my skin type, and as for the lip balms that airlines provide – they are never up to the task.
That being said, in the post-pandemic world we now live in, travel demand is being driven by premium leisure travelers. These are passengers who might not fly often, but when they do, they are splurging their own money for what they hope will be a luxury experience.
Does a paper box really exude that luxury? Perhaps airlines need to seek advice from luxury goods brands like Hermes or Louis Vuitton, who have somehow made the cardboard boxes and craft paper shopping bags that their products are presented in as covetable as what’s inside.
For American Airlines, the key to selling its new cardboard box amenity kit might be making the contents a little more eco-friendly while also partnering with a skincare or perfumey brand that wealthy premium passengers respect or even aspire to own.
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.