The Cost and Allure of Airline Amenity Kits

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m an avid collector of amenity kits and have an ongoing series reviewing them. They’re a fun item to collect and I love seeing each new generation an airline debuts, wondering if they’ve spruced it up or cheapened it down.

Earlier this month, The Business Journals ran an interesting piece discussing their allure, evolution and marketing power for not only the airlines, but also the brand name items within.

And I’ve always wondered what the true cost to airlines is for the final product and this article gives a little hint. The author spoke with a top U.S. executive of an international airline to reveal the following:

“The stuff is all over the map,” he said. “An amenity kit can cost an airline anywhere from $4 to $30 a unit. No one agrees whether it’s great for brand identity or it’s something that we’re afraid to get rid of because we’ve always done it. And the logistics are a nightmare. First you have to source them, usually in China, and then palletize them for shipment to the head office. Then you have ship them in containers to the international stations. The kits have to fit on the metal carts in-flight and you have to figure out how many to carry and how to store them.”

Thirty dollars sounds steep to me, but then again, some airlines offer exceptional kits packed with high-end cosmetics that would retail for top dollar in their full-size counterparts. The kits from Asiana, Emirates and Thai come to mind in this case. I’d have to guess the spend by U.S. airlines is nearer the $4/unit mark.

And about those high-end cosmetics, another article quotes a L’Occitane sales executive as barely marking up their products when pitching them to airlines. It’s pretty obvious why: simply for the large-scale exposure.

L’Occitane marks up products as much as 600 percent for retail sale, whereas the markup is closer to a razor-thin 12 percent for an airline deal. This level of discounting is typical of airline amenity contracts, especially at a time when major carriers are strapped for cash.

That article was 2007, admittedly, but I’d have to imagine there’s still very little up-front profit today in a skin care manufacturer’s airline deal, if at all. And back in 2006, Travel + Leisure calculated the value of some amenity kits based on what the per-ounce retail price would run for the cosmetics. Air France came in on the low end at the time at $49 with its Clarins products, and Japan Airlines at the top at $137 for its Shiseido and Clé de Peau lotions.

I will undoubtedly continue to grow my collection and while I’ll miss it this year, I definitely plan to attend the annual Airline Amenity Bag Awards next year in Hamburg. I’ll be in heaven!

Related posts:

Amenity Kit Reviews

My Top-Ranked Amenity Kit: Thai Airways

Poll: Should I Change My Amenity Kit Review Scale?

Comments

  1. OMG, they have awards for this stuff!

    My question is how much of a tax deduction is this stuff worth if you donate it? I have literally hundreds of these things!

  2. Have you seen the Thai kid’s meal lunch box? If, not check it out on their Facebook page. Thai does it all with style!

  3. How cool that there’s an awards event for amenity kits….rather than just attending, they should make you a presenter!

    • @Gene: You’d probably have to estimate their value for a tax deduction, as with most things.
      @Mile Bucket: I have in the past bought a few on eBay… and the Thai Rimowa kit I bought was around $100!
      @Joediver: I’ll have to check it out!
      @aadvantagegeek: There’s an idea! 🙂

  4. Darren, love your blog. Fascinating. Having been a UAL loyal flyer for years I have found myself disappointed with their lack luster serves since the merger. Thinking of finding a new airline. Anyway keep the great info and pics coming.
    Thanks. Greg.

  5. @ ecw – Not much, as in case you are not aware, most of these kits (also PJ) they just sew the logo into a bag, the brand rarely match the quality of the bag unless you buy a real Tumi bag in a store. It is same with all brand name amenity kits: Tumi (DL/TG), Porshe Design (LH/TG), Samsonite (NH), Bally (LX/BR), and the infamous Bogner (LH), which everyone also question how cheap looking and quality of the bag on the plane, consider it is a rather famous brand in Germany !

  6. I don’t really think there are many airlines would have a kit that cost up to $30, certainly OZ, EK, and TG doesn’t even come close to that even OZ and EK use Bvlgari. Consider both OZ and EK doesn’t have like a full size bottle of fragrance (both OZ white tea and EK red tea are pour on bottles, and pour on bottles do not sell individually, usually come in 5 different scents in a set, so the value is low, some airlines still have that 5 piece Bvlgari bottles pour on set for $30 in their duty free catalogs, so each bottle would be around $5 each) The other lotion and lipbalm even it is branded with Bvlgari, but it would cost little as those are manufactuer by Wesco not Bvlgari.

    The only kit that I can think of that would cost up to $30 were SQ’s former Bvlgari and Ferragamo kit. When SQ used Bvlgari and Ferragamo in the years past, both kits contain full size large bottle of perfume that you see in retail. SQ is the only airline being that generous. Unforunately, SQ had cut cost and for the first time use a non-fragrance brand for their F kit Kiehl’s. Kiehl’s is not cheap, but compare with Bvlgari or Ferragamo it is.

  7. Darren I look forward to seeing you in Hamburg next year in April. Yes TravelPlus launched the awards in current format in 2010 and this year we received over 100 entries. Entry for the 2013 Awards opens on the 1st June 2013.
    I very much enjoyed reading your feature however the cost of an amenity kit is a very closely keep secret we at TravelPlus have no idea of what airlines invest but we know passenger cherish them when the airline gets it spot on

  8. Hi. as of today, I have a box load of amenity kits for sale. If anyone is interested, please feel free yo contact me at simonc12345@yahoo.co.uk.
    I am in the UK and have recently had some of them on E Bay.
    Thanks.
    ps, have still got some vintage Pan Am ones for sale on there .

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