World’s best airline amenity bags: Cosmetic perks of first-class flying

World’s best airline amenity bags: Cosmetic perks of first-class flying

Nothing says first class like a Givenchy sleeper suit and silk bag of La Prairie skincare lotion
Something to make that US$10,000 ticket go down a little smoother. (Image courtesy David Jenner)

Impossibly small toothpaste tubes, itchy eye masks and headphones that work on one side.

The world of the airline amenity bag is often not as inspiring as it could be.

The night socks are too thin and stretchy. The earplugs are too fat and noisy.

But this is an economy-class problem.

Turn left, pass through the velvet curtain of privilege into business or first class and a Bulgari-scented world of silk cosmetic kits, creamy skincare products and other theft-worthy items awaits.

Except you wouldn’t really be stealing.

Etihad wants you to walk away with its elegant cufflink-inspired leather box filled with La Prairie skincare stuff.

Turkish Airlines wants you to secrete their Crabtree & Evelyn iPad case that doubles as a cosmetics bag into your carry-on.

Because next week, or next month, when you moisturize or floss, the brand reappears, the airline recurs and the bag’s job is done.

“The amenity bag is one of the only things you can legally take off the plane and remember and use afterward,” says Simon Ward, founder of TravelPlus Media, which last night hosted the third annual Airline Amenity Bag Awards in Hamburg.

“In fact, if a passenger doesn’t take it off the plane, it’s no good.”

The TravelPlus Media event is the only one to celebrate this oft-overlooked aspect of the airline industry.

Saviors to forgetful husbands

emirates business class"Actually, we're here for the 2012 Bulgari." “They’re particularly good for male travelers," Ward adds of the amenity bags. "If you’re a businessman, you’re away from home for a long time, say you’ve forgotten a gift for the wife. These amenity bags can be a great substitute.”

Most, of course, will never experience this side of traveling.

Emirates’ Bulgari Eau Parfumee Au The Rouge cosmetics are destined for first-class female faces only.

Qantas’ Jack Spade bag bulging with Malin+Goetz lotions will only ever be enjoyed by business-class men.

But that’s not to say this is a small market.

“It’s estimated there are around 38,000 first-class seats available worldwide over any 24-hour period, and 68,000 business class,” says Ward. “If each of those has an amenity bag, the marketing and commercial opportunities are huge.”

So much so that names such as Porsche, Dior and Anna Klein are designing for airlines now, too.

Not everyone's impressed

The power of these brand names may go some way to alleviating complaints recently voiced by certain top-tier travelers.

This discussion forum on BusinessTraveller.com last year had many lamenting the “demise of the amenity bag,” pointing out how in recent years pickings have slimmed down or been removed altogether on shorter flights.

Offer a man gold and suddenly silver is no good, it seems.

But the airlines maintain that customers still value the bags and, therefore, so do they.

“They remain an integral part of our premium class on-board experience on night and long-haul flights,” says Robin Padgett, Emirates’ divisional vice president for catering. “We also constantly review our premium amenity kits and regularly refresh the products.”

Singapore Airlines adds: "The items take into consideration passenger needs. The size of the bag takes into account the ease for customers to pack the kits into their hand-carry bags."

So, yes, the chances of enjoying the soft, subtle comforts of Singapore Airlines’ 100% combed cotton Givenchy sleeper suit and matching terry-cloth slippers are even smaller now than they used to be -- unless you have a forgetful husband -- but that’s not to say we can’t appreciate the effort.

Hence the awards.

Airlines and suppliers pay to enter the awards (US$138) and are then judged by online members of TravelPlus Media and a 10-strong judging panel of aviation professionals and frequent travelers.

World’s best airline amenity bags

First-class female: Emirates

Bulgari bag with Bulgari Eau Parfumee Au The Rouge cosmetic line.

etihad amenity kitFirst-class male: Etihad

Cufflink-inspired black leather box with jewel-toned lining designed by Harley Smith, containing La Prairie skincare products.

singapore airlines amenity kitFirst-class unisex: Singapore Airlines

Five large cosmetic products from skincare brand Kiehls.

virgin australia amenity kitBusiness-class female: Virgin Australia

Hans Hulsbosch bag made from nylon and microfiber materials in charcoal color, with Grown skincare products plus dental care, tissues and pen.

qantas amenity kitBusiness-class male: Qantas

Jack Spade black and navy utilitarian bag with skincare from New York-based apothecary brand Malin+Goetz.
turkish airlines amenity kit

Business-class unisex: Turkish Airlines

Crabtree & Evelyn combined iPad/cosmetics case with a pencil case containing skincare and dental items and a draw string pouch for socks and eye mask.
condor airlines amenity kit

Premium economy: Condor Airlines

Blue and white pouch with additional laundry bag and socks, eyeshades, dental kit, earplugs and additional earphones.

virgin atlantic amenity kitEconomy class: Virgin Atlantic

A 100% recycled sustainable amenity kit with regular amenities such as earplugs and dental care, and designer eyeshades such as Kanye West’s Shutter Shades or Rayban’s Wayfarers.

qantas amenity kitChildren under 6: Qantas

Crayola activity pack featuring color pencils, sharpener and drawing paper.
qatar airways amenity kit

Children over 6: Qatar Airways

SpongeBob lunch box filled with fresh food, fruit juice and a sweet treat. Kids get to keep the lunch box.

finnair amenity kitEthically sustainable: Finnair

Recycled paper pouch with eyeshades, cotton socks and earplugs. Passengers can request from a range of natural cosmetics made by Finnish Guest Comfort Ltd in two scents: green tea and birch.

turkish airlines amenity kitMost innovative: Turkish Airlines

Special hajj amenity kit for pilgrims traveling to Mecca, with prayer mat, prayer counter, backpouch and socks for use at destination.

cathay pacific delight cocktailBest non-alcoholic cocktail: Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific’s “Delight” cocktail was the product of a cocktail competition held by the airline in association with the Hong Kong Bar Tenders association. The cocktail contains coconut milk, kiwi juice and a little regular milk garnished with a piece of mint.

As senior producer for CNN Travel, James commissions stories, writes for, edits and manages the homepage of the site. 

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