We catch up with the Godmother of Airline Amenities – Anita Gittelson

Whoever said “bigger is better” never had to pay for airline fuel.

Today “bigger” seems to equate with more money spent. Especially with airline onboard amenities.  Royalties paid for “name” brands are now “de riguer.” I remember when I suggest a name brand toothpaste might be conceived of as a safer toothpaste for passengers to use to Delta Airlines. The CEO of Delta Airlines at the time, Mr. Allen, said, “Why would I do free advertising for a name brand.  I’m advertising Delta. If they want to be on my airline, they can pay me for the privilege.”

In twenty-five years, we have come full circle.  Airlines now feel they MUST have name brands to stay competitive. Is that really true?

Are there any other ways airlines can stand out from the competition? I think that if we think outside the box, as they say, we might come up with concepts that would not only make the competition take notice, but could get media and passenger attention! We know that airlines are aware of their carbon footprint and that using recycled or earth friendly products have had, and are  having, an impact on onboard products and packaging.  Perhaps empirical studies need to be done to see if passengers are reacting positively and loyally to the airlines that show they do care about our environment.

There are airlines that contribute to “conservation and clean air activities” based on their mileage flown. I don’t think there’s enough media coverage or studies done to show the impact they are having.  It certainly deserves more attention.

What about NEW ideas that are environmental, cost effective AND charitable?  Charitable ventures onboard have always been encouraged – the donations collected onboard for UNICEF – for instance.  Nobody has tapped into this concept yet with onboard amenity kits!  Outside the box?

What if “must haves” are on the seat when international travel passengers got onboard.  Socks, eyeshades, earplugs. Now. When it’s quieted down and everyone has drinks in hand, along comes a flight attendant with a tray.  Cute recycled paper little handled bags with soya based print are on a sectioned recycled paper tray along with items some passengers might want.  Emery board or comb, tissues or hand cream, lip balm or pen?  Drug store brand toothpaste and a recycled corn based toothbrush.

“Help yourself, Mr. Smith.” (The personal name is a good use of the manifest flight attendants have)

And guess what? There’s a little pamphlet for passengers on that tray that talks about less product offerings, for a cleaner environment,  has allowed this airline to save money too, and this money is going toward worldwide initiatives to end hunger around the world. “You (name of airline) passenger are feeding starving children around the globe and we thank you in their name.”

First and Business Class passengers no longer have to find a way to stuff an amenity kit into their carry-ons. And in addition, a hungry child is eating somewhere because THIS  airline cares.  Talk about loyalty incentives. That’s just one concept.  Put a group of marketing people on the task of the next generation of amenity programs onboard and ideas will flow.

It’s easy to “follow the trends” – it’s brilliant to start a new one.