September 14 2023  |  Amenities & Comfort

Amenities trending: Go brand or go home

By Stephanie Philp

This is a special feature from PAX International’s September 2023 IFSA EXPO issue on page 40.

If you were asked to think of a successful brand partnership right now, you might find your head filled with a vision of bright, Barbie pink. Since Greta Gerwig’s major blockbuster released this July, Barbie partnerships have proliferated globally. There are Barbie meals at restaurants, Barbie-themed nail polish — there is even a real Barbie dream house you can stay at. It’s clear that Mattel went all in on bringing these partnerships to the fore- front. Movie-goers and fans are sport ing Barbie-branded swag in every way. Should airlines take note of this success?

Despite not having a $150 million marketing budget, suppliers and airlines can still work together with brands to create iconic partnerships. A Barbie-level win may not be too far off. With this in mind, PAX International sat down with leading companies and airlines to speak through how and why a brand partnership can work so well when designing an amenity kit.

Authenticity is key
“All airlines are different, and therefore have different needs, different cultures and different operational requirements,” Clip founder Cindy Lam tells PAX International, explaining that a good partnership integrates these constraints to put a pleasing solution to put in front of passengers.

Lam sees comfort items as an opportunity to create extra satisfaction for travellers. She notes how disappointing such an item can be if not designed well. Clip works with airlines to develop bespoke, tailor-made solutions. So how does her company bring ideas to life?

For Clip, authenticity is key.

Instead of “just ticking a box” in terms of having available items, “airlines have realized that these items are opportunities to tell stories to their passengers,” Lam explains. “Especially now, where global audiences are becoming more and more educated to caring about where the products around them come from, and in which conditions they’ve been produced — brands really become a hallmark of quality to show passengers.”

Lam adds that brands can also benefit hugely from being onboard, as the exposure often “becomes a springboard to bring the brand to a higher level.” A partnership that benefits supplier, brand, airline and passengers alike is the ideal situation.

The place to be
A recent amenity kit developed in partnership with Watermark for Qantas Business Class travellers embodies this ideal situation. The kit, created with Australian fashion designer Rebecca Vallance, pays homage to New York.

The Rebecca Vallance kit was available on all flights from Australia and New Zealand to New York and vice versa for the months of June and July

“Each piece incorporates Vallance’s Avenue Astoria Collection print, which is a nod to the glamorous characters of New York’s Waldorf Astoria in the 1970s, where Elizabeth Taylor’s and Diana Ross’ comings and goings were well documented,” a recent release stated.

The partnership was developed to raise awareness of a re-opened route between Australia, New Zealand and New York. The design features a monogram of the Qantas “Roo” and Vallance’s logo. “The palette of blues and subtle Art Deco undertones reflect the heritage, glamour and sophistication of the Waldorf Astoria’s hotel architecture,” the release described.

The amenity kits were available on all flights from Australia and New Zealand to New York and vice versa for the months of June and July. The kits were also sold at Qantas Marketplace through points redemption, and, the release reported, were so popular they sold out within hours.

Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer, Markus Svensson said New York is a favourite destination for Australians travelling for both leisure and business, and the airline is launching a number of customer initiatives to herald Qantas' return to the city.

"Qantas is one of the few airlines in the world to provide Business Class passengers with complimentary pyjamas, and we're excited to launch a limited edition pyjama and amenity kit range in partnership with leading Australian fashion designer Rebecca Vallance," said Svensson.

Designing kits at Watermark, Kenny Harmel, Managing Director at the company, explains, “is a meticulous process that blends brand identity, sustainability, functionality and passenger preference.”

From brainstorming potential partners, concepts and features for a new kit, the process becomes almost instantly a collaborative journey with the internal team, a brand and the airline.

“An excellent brand partnership is one that aligns with the values of the airline and improves the passenger experience and encourages reuse. This can be through telling a story or through design,” Harmel says. He adds that a “recognizable brand name doesn’t always translate to an improved passenger experience.” A partnership must go beyond that. A recognizable name “can create a sense of familiarity and trust for passengers,” Harmel says, and trust is a major part of building loyalty.

Maintaining trust with passengers also means staying on top of sustainability trends, and working to reduce an item’s environmental foot print. For the Qantas kit, the inner contents were plastic-free and the skincare tubes were manufactured with “the maximum recycled content possible,” Harmel says. The kits were also designed with the intention of being continually reused.

Self-care is in
A new United Airlines premium transcontinental amenity kit, created by Procurall Solutions with Asutra, is another example of an excellent brand partnership.

The Asutra kit on United Airlines featured a cleansing face towelette, lip balm and hand lotion for Business Class passengers flying premium transcontinental routes between west coast hubs and the New York City area

Asutra’s mission “is to make self- care a possibility for everyone through accessible wellness products. From personal experience, I know that taking care of yourself intentionally while traveling can be challenging. This new amenity kit gives travellers an easy, enjoyable way to take care of them- selves while on their journey and arrive refreshed,” says Stephanie Morimoto, Asutra owner and Self-Care Advocate.

Each kit includes an Asutra cleans- ing face towelette, lip balm and hand lotion, all in sustainable packaging, a bamboo toothbrush, ear plugs and an eye mask. Made with magnesium and eucalyptus, the lotion provides essential hydration for dry and tired hands to help create a sense of calm and includes mango seed butter, coconut oil and almond oil to soothe, moisturize and protect the skin while onboard.

In choosing which brand(s) to partner with, Procurall takes into account a number of factors. From a brand’s financial stability to its sustainability capabilities and overall versatility — the company chooses brands that resonate with the airline’s goals and initiatives alongside Procurall’s.

“The choice of brand can greatly impact the airline’s reputation, customer satisfaction and overall business success,” Procurall says, adding that passengers are “more likely to feel confident in the service they are receiving” if “it is backed by a trusted brand.”

One of the standout features of the kit is the “How about a little self-care on the fly” skincare with magnesium hand cream. Magnesium offers multiple benefits, including reducing stress and aiding in sleep, contributing to the overall sense of tranquility during the travel journey.

“With the Asutra kit, highlighting self-care and mental well-being was a major focus in the design process as well as sustainability,” says Product Designer, Shannal Lee. “In an era defined by hectic schedules and unrelenting demands, Asutra prioritizes the belief that taking care of oneself is essential for improved physical and mental well-being.”

“This coincides with United’s philosophy, which aims ‘to create an environment that fosters relaxation, mindfulness, and self-care’,” says Procurall President, Jennifer Green. “Feedback

has been overwhelmingly positive with passengers expressing delight at the practicality and usefulness of these kits,” she continues. “They have also praised the importance and inclusion of a local, Chicago-based, women owned and led, small business collaboration.”

Seasonal pleasure
Emirates has a longstanding collaboration with luxury Italian fashion house, Bulgari. The airline releases refreshed designs onboard every 12 to 15 months, and “each time the design process focuses on the kits being collectible, stylish and reusable — representing the functional luxury synonymous with Emirates,” an Emirates Product Development Spokesperson tells PAX International.

Emirates values the exclusivity of the partnership, “so we are constantly creating unique products for customers that are only available on Emirates,” the company says. The Bulgari partnership enhances shared core values of “excellence and innovation.”

Emirates’ new collection of amenity kits include eight different collectible bags across First and Business Class

In time for the Autumn and Winter season, Emirates has announced a new collection of Bulgari amenity kits for First Class and Business Class passengers. New colours and fragrances are featured in the kits and the range is available in eight different collectible bags.

“We consistently receive positive feedback across our channels, confirming that our customers love the Bulgari amenity kit bags,” the spokesperson says, adding that some customers choose
to fly on a specific route just to receive the kit. The fragrances are particularly popular, with passengers frequently asking about where to purchase them.

For Emirates, the kit “signifies generosity, attention to detail, excellence, reliability, luxury and ultimately reflects the experience of travelling with Emirates.”

Business Class Kits
In Business Class, two bag shapes made from vegan leather are offered: a pouch and a classic toiletry bag. Both bags come in silver — a trending Pantone according to the August press release.

BVLGARI OMNIA Amethyste Eau de Toilette is the featured fragrance. Other products include the Omnia Amethyste face emulsion and body emulsion, a Bulgari lip balm, a dental kit, a double mirror made from wheat straw, deodorant, tissues and a foldaway hairbrush. “The kits are developed to be collectible and reusable, rather than disposable,” the company tells PAX International.

Two additional options are available in a “contemporary classic black fabric bags in varying shapes with tan vegan leather accents” for passengers “who prefer a masculine style.” In these kits, the featured fragrance is BVLGARI POUR HOMME Eau de Toilette.

First Class Kits
In First Class, two bags are available in black vegan leather with lilac accents, and two additional bags are on option in a high-quality black fabric with tan vegan leather accents. The black and lilac kits feature a new engraved gold Bulgari mirror (designed exclusively for Emirates) and a 30ml exclusive bottle of BVLGARI LE GEMME Desiria Eau de Parfum.

New collectible amenity kits for Economy and Premium Economy passengers are set to be launched later this year.

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