I KNOW WE’RE ALL SOPHISTICATES too jaded to be thrilled by those airline amenity kits offered, usually, in business and first classes. But I think of them as a variation on those little gift bags you take home at the end of a charity gala: You probably don’t need anything they contain, but it sure is fun to go rooting around in there. So with airline toiletry kits, I can’t help myself: I take one outbound and another when coming back home, always hoping no one notices.
What do I do with them? Sometimes I wear the slippers or socks in flight, sometimes the toothbrush will get a workout. But mostly I just take them home and stick them in my “travel drawer,” the drawer that holds all the fannypacks and money belts and plug adapters and 210-current hairdryer and things I can rarely remember I have the next time I head out.
As a result, the travel drawer has been bursting with stuff I never used yet could nevertheless not part with. So I recently made a survey of my holdings; now that I have it out of my system, they’re all going to a shelter, where people might genuinely like/need the sample sizes of lotions and toothpaste and that all-time favorite, lip balm. (What’s with all that lip balm anyway?)
My travels on Air Europa, American, Copa, Delta, EVA, Finnair, Icelandair, LOT and Turkish airlines reaped some interesting kits, but they’re not the top of the heap. In a story last year on ThePointsGuy.com air-travel website, reporter Jessica Spiegel showed cheerful striped slipper socks from Air New Zealand, a two-tone clutch designed by Ferragamo (and kitted out with Ferragamo toiletries) from Alitalia’s Magnifica class, cheerful geometric Kate Spade cosmetic bags for women (Jack Spade for men) on Qantas, and black silk Armani toiletry kits from Qatar Airways filled with, yes, Armani skincare products and fragrance (Acqua di Giò for men, Si for women).
Reaching out to the hip crowd, Virgin Atlantic’s Upper class (get it?) hands out cases made from recycled plastic bottles. To cite ThePointsGuy.com, outbound flights have soft cases meant to be reused as tablet cases, while inbound amenity kit cases turn into travel wallets.
The idea of transformation seems to be the new way to distinguish your airline’s service over that of another. First they went from anonymous toiletries to brand names, the fancier the better. But making the pouch or clutch or zipper bag see iPad duty long after the flight, well, that’s the gift that keeps on giving—and keeps on reminding us where it came from.
Airline amenity kits certainly bring out the little kid in us (or at least me), the kid impatient to get to the gift. Then the grown-up checks in to remind me that, often, the real thrill comes from the unwrapping; it’s the promise, not necessarily the gift itself.