I find myself conflicted when it comes to amenity kits on airplanes…they serve an important purpose but are objectively quite wasteful in many cases. As airlines give lip service to environmental concern, amenity kits represent the greatest tension between sustainability and practicality.
I Do Love Airline Amenity Kits
There’s something special about an airline-branded amenity kits that seems to be part and parcel of the premium cabin experience. Just like Champagne and caviar are so closely linked to first class, so are amenity kits linked to the forward cabin on airlines around the world.
Over the years, I’ve collected hundreds of amenity kits and love that they come in all different shapes and sizes, with some being much more practical than others. Where I can, I repurpose amenity kit cases. My current toiletry bag is a Delta Tumi-branded case and we keep our passports in a British Airways case. The kids keep their colored pencils and crayons in various amenity kits and I also keep my foreign currency reserves in various amenity bags.
In terms of their content, I don’t ever use eye masks or ear plugs, but I appreciate the toothbrushes, which I rotate every few weeks. It is always nice to have an airline-branded pen as well.
I find the amenity kits from Emirates the most practical, particularly because they include a quality razor and a large but still travel-size container of shaving cream.
Some first class amenity kits, partcarly on Asian carriers, still include perfumes or cologne…I don’t use that. But I do appreciate the La Prairie products that are in SWISS First Class amenity kits (and used to be in Lufthasna ones). Over a three-year period in 2017-2020 I gathered enough skin creme to last me through the pandemic (and this is screen cream that costs hundreds of dollars per tube, so it wasn’t cheap stuff).
But Airlines Amenity Kits Are Wasteful
While I love airline amenity kits, I find their very concept quite wasteful. All of us (typically) travel with a toiletry bag already with essential products in it. Sure, it is nice to avoid having to access that in-flight, but all the products inside the amenity kit are products we already have.
Walk off any flight in business class and you will generally see dozens of opened amenity kits left behind. Most of the time, those kits are just thrown away. It is so wasteful.
Not only do the bags and the plastic that encases them create waste, but using a toothbrush once and then leaving it behind is so wasteful. Same with an eyeshade or socks or earplugs.
How I Approach Airlines Amenity Kits
I used to hoard amenity kits. Quite honestly, I sill hoard them…though I have added very few to my “collection” over the last few years.
I keep telling myself I want to take all the amenity kits that I have (except for the Rimowa-branded ones) and donate them to charity, but I’ve been saying that for years and by now the skin products are likely expired in dozens if not hundreds of the kits sitting in a waterproof box in my attic.
These days, I mostly leave amenity kits behind…but I break the seal on them and spread out the contents on my tray table to photograph for my trip reports. I fly United most of all and have stopped opening the United ones altogether, instead just leaving them sealed in my seat after I fly.
> Read More: Help! I’m An Airline Packrat…
Is The Singapore Airlines Approach Best?
Singapore Airlines offered an amenity kit with limited content and then offers items like razors and toothbrushes and mouthwash in the lavatory. Qatar and Lufthasna do this too, to an extent.
This strikes me as a better balance and makes people more likely to take only what they need.
Qatar Airways, for example, has rather excellent toothbrushes in its business class lavatories, not the flimsy ones intended for one or two uses only. When I fly Qatar, I always take the toothbrush with me and will use it for 2-3 weeks.
On the other hand, if I get a kit wtih those nasty bamboo toothbrushes that remind me of when the doctor checks my tonsils, I will leave them behind.
Thus, I am in favor of airlines offering amenities on-demand, especially if that results in higher quality items.
Amenity kits may be part and parcel of the business and first class experience, but they are quite wasteful in many cases. I’m not advocating for their ban or anything like that, but I do wonder if there is a better way to approach amenities onboard, perhaps as Singapore Airlines does.