Amenities caught up with three top-notch suppliers to talk trends: Spiriant’s Design Director Addy Ng, Matrix’s Creative Director Ben Read and PetrosSakkis, Chief Marketing Officer at WESSCO International.
With the accessibility and fluidity of information, trends are no longer strictly limited to a particular area or region, and are global influencers across continents. This is undoubtedly thanks to the evolution of social media, and most significantly the rise of the hashtag. Now social, economic and political conversations can also follow trends on a globally public scale along with the more traditional trend driven markets such as fashion, music, tech etc. Before the hashtag era of #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, #nofilter, each global region had a defined identity when it came to the trends that dominated their popular culture. This was also the case when it came to airlines appealing to that particular area. Now however, as a result of this shift, WESSCO’s Petros Sakkis highlights how the airline industry has had to move with the times,‘The industry is shifting fast to more well-thought-out, personalised amenities. Passengers are becoming more discerning and vocal about all aspects of their travel experience on social media. This gives airlines additional pressure but also insight on how to improve the travel experience.’
So, what are the expectations of passengers? And how is this influencing the type of trends that are driving the airlines’ decisions regarding their onboard offerings?Our industry experts’ resoundingly highlighted two key topics; 1) Sustainability 2) Well Being
Both are unsurprising, and mirror the big conversations the world is having in themainstream media on a daily basis. A few years ago, brands, brands, brands would’ve dominated the trending feed regardless of their CSR values. Today however, brands that want to survive have to be making a difference tothe bigger picture. This of course is playing a big part in the world of amenities with airlines looking for eco-conscious, sustainable amenities that can help reduce waste and the dependency onsingle-use plastic.
This call to action is primarily a result of governments changing laws surrounding single-use plastic. This obviously has a knock-on effect in the manufacturing process as Matrix’s Ben Read highlights,‘There’s need for change on a global scale in the way we manufacture, source and buy products. Consumers and retailers are demanding increased transparency from manufacturers, and in some cases, complete transparency in the supply chain.’
With social media influencers, #trends and environmentalists such as David Attenborough championing change, airlines are ambitious to do their bit. Spiriant’s Addy Ng points out, ‘media coverage of how unsustainable products are polluting our oceans, land and air, is prevalent across traditional and social channels. As a result, passengers are more informed and are looking for airlines who can provide answers for these problems.’Amenity kit offerings are the most effective way of showing an airlines commitment to these demands, as Addycontinues, ‘the kit is often the only gift a passenger takes home with them, therefore the sustainability of a product directly reflects on the brand image.’
Switching to sustainable kits however is easier said than done. Nevertheless, the change is of paramount importance if the industry is to move forward. Many suppliers have looked at developing recyclable and recycled contents, and develop partnerships with cosmetic brands that create sustainable organic products. New materials have slowly been introduced into the amenity market, most PET 100% recycled plastic. Ben Read stresses that ‘Reduced and even naked packaging, waterless beauty products and recycled packaging are going to become more and more prevalent in every day purchases and will undoubtedly be applied to onboard products.’ Other alternatives include Bamboo. Addyadmits, ‘bamboo is a great material that Spiriant is currently working with. It’s a very fast growing plant, so it can be easily planted and grown quickly. The 100% bamboo socks that we supply to airlines are soft, comfortable and environmentally friendly.’
With the pressure on to create effective solutions, it’s a question of why has it taken this long for the industry to sit up and listen? What obstacles have prevented these measures from being pursued in the first place? Is it a question of budget, or do we simply use this as a scapegoat to avoid changing the way we work? Addy Ng points out that, ‘Contrary to popular belief, being sustainable doesn’t always mean that airlines need to spend a lot more money. It’s about making intelligent changes that make sense for the individual airline. It’s true that some new sustainable products are more expensive because the demand is still low. But if more airlines are willing to change, the cost will drop in the future.’ As a species, we are not very good at change but it’s vital if we want our planet to survive. The bigger the demand, the more the industry will have to change.
Loving care and attention seems to be the theme of the most dominate trends this year as, along with valuing the environment, our own well-being is and has been a key focus of the airlines for some time. Mental health has become increasingly important in the mainstream media with yoga, meditation, healthy eating all being very ‘on-trend’. It’s only natural that airlines are ambitious to mimic these lifestyle choices onboard.
Ben Read underlines that, ‘the holistic approach to self-care focusing on cleansing the body and soul, is another key trend for 2019. Whole wellness is all about the whole experience; the luxury scented candle, inhalable and digestible vitamins and high-quality lotions and sprays. Onboard this would translate into calming sprays and pulse points to help you sleep, warming eye masks and luxuriously soft sleepwear.’ Being well-rested after a long flight is the perfect way to start your adventures at your destination and makes for a positive brand experience. Key examples of this already in play, are the whole host of bedding brands that have taken flight onboard, from American Airlines with Casper, to most recently Etihad Airways with Duxiana in The Residence. Sleeper suits have developed over time to address the comfort needs of the passenger. Emirates’ hydra active sleeper suits even address the issue of hydration whilst onboard. Thanks to microcapsule technology created by Matrix, the set moisturises the passenger’s skin as they travel.
With airlines determined to create a ‘hotel in the clouds’ holistic experience, suppliers are pushing to develop new smart solutions to emanate this. On top of luxury bedding brands offering a pillow menu for personal preference, there are certain technologies being explored to achieve the optimum level of comfort and relaxation onboard. From skincare ranges, lighting and temperature control, why shouldn’t airlines be reflective of the best five star hotels out there? As Ben Read champions, ‘This same luxurious experience should be prevalent onboard with temperature control bedding, smart skincare that reacts to your skin type, smart fabric sleepwear and multifunctional tech.’ Matirx have been exploring more ways to develop said technologies and have now created a new athleisure product. Ben explains, ‘Comfort Zone is our athleisure focused trend that focuses on inclusive, unisex comfort and style with bold colours and slogans on clothing that you wouldn’t just wear around the house. Onboard this could mean a stylish, expressive clothing offering that isn’t just limited to sleepsuits but is something you would actually want to wear every day.’
So, what is the future?
The future of airline amenities is intrinsically linked with the expectations of future travellers; Generation Z.
Generation Z comprises of those tech savvy tots born between 1995 and 2006 who are now in their prime and coming of age. Having grown up in a highly-sophisticated media and computer environment, their expectations are higher than preceding generations and a sense of entitlement goes with the territory. As the children of the future, their opinion matters most and it is in the airlines’ interests to appeal to their expectations in order to grow unwavering brand loyalty.
As mentioned previously, Social Media is now playing a huge role in people’s lives and reflecting the global demographics’ wants and desires. The world wants change; and above all sustainability and well being. As Petros Sakkis explains, ‘we see airlines making an effort to appeal to a younger generation of travellers, often by collaborating with exciting new brands that resonate with this audience.’ Perhaps it’s even time the industry made the leap from the traditional amenity kit to something a little more explorative as Addy Ng ventures, ‘a new trend which will impact the industry is the increase of creativity and exactly what it means to have an amenity kit. For example, do they always need to fit the current format of a pouch filled with different items we can use onboard? Can they be comprised of something completely different?’