How Upgraded Amenities May Change Air Travel as We Know It

Reimagined meals and inventive amenity kits are enhancing the in-flight experience.

U.S. News & World Report

How Upgraded Amenities May Change Air Travel as We Know It

Budget travel

With innovative meals and new pet privileges, airlines are delivering improved flight experiences in spades.(Getty Images)

As a growing number of airlines continue to scale back some of the benefits frequent fliers once took for granted, such as complimentary in-flight meals and free checked bags on top of already expensive plane tickets, it's refreshing to know other carriers are taking a different path. In an effort to provide travelers with a better customer experience, some airlines are offering additional perks rather than increasing fares for ancillaries such as priority boarding access and in-flight Wi-Fi. From pampering pets to providing inventive in-air cuisine, there are plenty of ways airlines are trying to make flying a little more palatable.

For Paul Dillon, managing director at Accenture Travel Services, a management consulting company that works with airlines to improve the customer experience, it comes as no surprise that airlines are striving to offer more value and benefits to consumers. "Generally competition for loyal customers remains hot, especially at the high-end, so airlines are being forced to add more amenities for the same ticket price in order to show value for money," he says.

Upscale Amenity Kits

High-end amenity kits are a popular addition for many airlines. For example, Hawaiian Airlines offers tropical-inspired travel kits in each cabin on its international flights. Those traveling in economy are rewarded with eyeshades and ear plugs, while those in business-class seats are granted a few additional items, including a bamboo comb, socks and lip balm. Plus, all amenities are rolled into a tri-fold kit that's easy to carry if you want to keep some freebies after your flight. The kits have been hugely popular with customers, who frequently ask how to purchase them, says Renee Awana, senior director of product development at Hawaiian Airlines.

La Compagnie, an all business-class luxury airline that operates flights from New York to Paris and London, also pampers passengers with luxury amenity kits. Inside each kit, guests are treated to custom headphones created by Venus Brown of Buddah Brown Entertainment, moisturizer, a mirror, a shoe bag, an eye mask, ear plugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste, among other items.

In first-class cabins and suites on Singapore Airlines fliers are provided with luxury amenity kits filled with Salvatore Ferragamo products, such as hand cream, lip balm and travel-size fragrance for women and Acqua Essenziale cleaning towel, lip balm, hand cream and other products for men. Meanwhile, Aer Lingus, an Irish-based carrier, elevates the business-class experiences with lie-flat reclining seats complete with amenity kits containing duvets, pillows, cotton eyeshades and socks for a smooth in-flight snooze.

If you're a lover of subscription box services, JetBlue even partners with beauty products company Birchbox to provide fliers traveling in its premium Mint class with a complimentary box filled with beauty, grooming and lifestyle products.

Innovative In-Flight Meals

Many airlines are catering to their customers' desire for improved meals that go beyond peanuts and pretzels. In Etihad's first-class cabins on long-haul flights, guests are treated to meals prepared by an in-flight chef, as well canapés and fine wines. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines boasts an International Culinary Panel of chefs that crafts seasonal menus. What's more, business-class passengers are offered Prelude "Grands Crus" Champagne.

If you are yearning for the perfect cup of joe on your next flight, Delta Air Lines has switched its coffee brand from Seattle's Best to Starbucks. You'll find Pike Place Roast on all of Delta's flights around the world and at select Sky Clubs offering self-service Starbucks coffee espresso machines. Travelers flying in JetBlue's Mint cabin seats are also treated to a small plates menu and gourmet snacks, including Blue Marble Ice Cream along with caffeinated drinks from Brooklyn Roasting Company.

Upgraded Pet Perks

Premium-cabin privileges aren't limited to human passengers. American Airlines recently rolled out a new first class cabin aboard select planes servicing Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) that's specifically designed for pets. For an additional $125 fee, passengers can reserve a first-class seat that comes with a compartment space for pets. 

So far, the pet cabins have been a hit with passengers and are in high demand, says Casey Norton, director of corporate communications for American. "American Airlines now has the network to compete with carriers around the world, and we know that we have to offer products and services that are better than the competition to win new customers," she adds.

Will this trend continue? Dillon believes so. "As the industry capacity increases and competition remains fierce, then this will become the new normal for high-end travelers." 

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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