Singapore Airlines

Airline amenity kits -Part 1

Airline amenity kits filled with personal care items have been handed out to business and/or first-class passengers on long commercial flights since at least the 1950s. Utilitarian at first, today these chic containers and their posh contents have become coveted and collectible and are often designed by top designers and filled with luxury products.

Here’s a look at some travelers’ favorite kits, past and present from the slide show I originally put together for CNBC Road Warrior.

1_PANAMKIT_SFOMUSEUM

A Pan Am World Airways amenity kit from the 1960s. “The President Special” was the name given to the airline’s first class service on several high-profile international routes. Courtesy SFO Museum

2_RemainOverNightkit_courtesySFOMuseum

Courtesy SFO Museum

The SFO Museum has 355 airline kits representing 57 airlines in its collection. The earliest were called “Remain Over Night” kits and produced in “his” and “hers” versions by the Airline Textile Manufacturing Company (AirTex) based in Des Moines, Iowa.

The men’s kit included deodorant, aftershave, hair cream, a razor, shoe polish and a comb. The women’s kit had hair spray, cleansing cream, hand cream and nail polish remover, according to the SFO Museum.

11_Qantas_Kate Spade and Jack Spade

Qantas, the flag carrier of Australia, partnered with Kate Spade New York and Jack Spade a couple of years ago to design exclusive amenity kits for customers traveling in the business class cabin. Each kit includes a selection of luxury Malin+Goetz skin care products as well as an eye mask, ear plugs, socks and other comfort essentials.

3A_DELTA Air Lines - new kit with lens cleaner

Delta’s Tumi amenity kit gets high marks from frequent travelers for both its contents and its re-usability. “It stands head and shoulders above the competition, with a good range of products, including lip balm, which is always something I forget,” said John Walton at Routehappy. It can also “easily be reused to pack thing likes extra batteries or headphone cords,” said Chris McGinnis, of Travelskills.com.

4A_SingaporeFerragamo Amenity Kit_Male and Female Products

Singapore Airline’s Salvatore Ferragamo-branded amenity kits stand out to Paul Shrater, co-founder of the online travel-size site Minimus.biz because “not only is Ferragamo a well-known luxury brand, but the kits include travel-sized perfume and cologne, a rarity in amenity kits and a product we recently launched due to customer demand.”

5A_EVA Rimowa Amenity Kits - contents

Sadly EVA Air has not created Hello Kitty-themed amenity kits to go with its fleet of Hello Kitty-themed aircraft, but when the airline introduced three brand-new Boeing 777-300ERs on its North America routes in the summer of 2014, it also introduced two new colors for its sought-after Rimowa amenity kits. Royal Laurel business class passengers receive one color on inbound flights and the other outbound. Contents complement the shells’ colors and include natural lip balm and moisturizing products by HARNN, lens-cleaning cloths and adjustable silk eye masks.

6_Japan airlines contents of amenity kit

All the items in Japan Airlines’ kit for First Class passengers “were perfectly color-coordinated,” said Oonagh Shiel, the editor who recently led a review of almost thirty airline amenity kits for Cheapflights.com. “The toothbrush matched the hair brush and the eye mask and we didn’t see another kit with a built-in hanger,” which open up possibilities for after-flight use in a hotel or at home, said Shiel. The airline distributes a beige canvas kits on flights departing Japan and a camel corduroy version on flights headed there.

More airline kits tomorrow.

Kid-free zone on Singapore Air’s budget carrier, Scoot

FlyScoot - Changi, Singapore

Would you pay extra to be able to scoot your seat away from small kids on a plane? Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier, Scoot, is betting you will.

The airline, which currently flies from Singapore to 11 destinations in Asia and Australia, has created a premium “Scoot in Silence” section at the front of its economy class cabin.

There, passengers can pay about $14 extra per ticket in exchange for more legroom and the promise that “the under 12s will be someplace else.”

“I’d pay to sit in an adults-only section,” said Keri Coull, an “unemployed mum/graduate” from San Francisco now living in Scotland. She thinks others would too. “I loved my 2 1/2 year-old, but returning from Mexico was traumatic for other passengers.”

Scoot is not the first Asian airline to set aside a cabin section that is off limits to kids.

In February 2013, long-haul, low-cost carrier AirAsia X introduced a kid-free “Quiet Zone” on its aircraft. And last year Malaysia Airlines declared the upper decks of its A380s kid-free. The airline also bans kids from its first class cabins.

“These quiet zones are part of a wider trend that sees airlines providing passengers more choice and control of the onboard experience without having to pay a lot to upgrade to a different class,” said Raymond Kollau of Amsterdam-based AirlineTrends.com.

Of course, in the close quarters of an airplane, a quiet zone can be hard to define.

“What about the passenger seated in the last row of the kid-free section when an infant begins screaming behind him or her?” said Anya Clowers of JetwithKids.com.

For now, representatives from American and Delta said they have no plans to introduce kid-free zones. And the no-kids-allowed idea “doesn’t quite fit the overall familial vision Lufthansa is embracing,” said Christina Semmel, the airline’s corporate communications manager for North America. (In fact, the airline recently introduced new family and kid-friendly amenities, including boarding passes — but no special seating — for stuffed animals and dolls.)

But in the modern unbundled-amenities world of airlines, having the “opportunity” to pay to sit outside a kid zone on a domestic carrier may just be a matter of time.

“I can see airlines such as United and Delta, who already offer separate zones with extra legroom seats, trialing whether they can turn part of these zones into a quiet zone, depending on the configuration of the aircraft,” said Kollau.

The audience rushing to buy these seats might be business travelers, who are “universally in favor of kid-free zones,” said Joe Brancatelli, who runs the business traveler newsletter JoeSentMe. “(At least) until they have kids and are banished to the kid zone when they cash-in miles to take the family on holiday.”

(My story:  “Scoot in silence”: Singapore Air budget carrier offers kid-free zone first appeared on NBC News Travel)

 

 

New seats – and more – for Singapore Airlines

The longer your flight, the more importance you’ll likely place on the size and comfort of your seat and on the entertainment amenities offered to you in-flight.

That’s why Singapore Airlines held a big event today in Singapore to introduce new First, Business and Economy cabin products that will roll out first on eight Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and on other aircraft the airline will take delivery of in the future. If you’re flying on certain flights between London and Singapore (a flight that lasts about 13 hours) starting in September, you’ll get to experience these products right away. In the meantime, here’s a preview:

First Class

Singapore Air First Class

Designers from BMW helped created the airline’s new First Class seats, which are 35 inches wide, with a fixed back shell, extra storage space, a vanity area, a padded headboard, extra mattress layer and a full-flat bed that stretches up to 82 inches. First Class customers on the new B777-300ERs will also receive a gender-specific Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit that includes, among other items, a 30ml bottle of Ferragamo fragrance.

Singapore Air - first class amenit kit

Business Class

Singapore Air Business Class seat

The new Business Class seat has extra storage space, 32 degree recline, a padded headboard cushion and an improved ergonomic seat cushion that converts into a 78-inch full-flat bed. Business Class customers don’t get an amenity kit beyond eyeshades and socks, but there are plenty of useful amenities in the lavatories.

Economy Class

Singapore Air - economy seatback

Economy Class seats are getting a makeover on the new planes as well, with new backrest seat cushions with side bolsters for better back support and an ergonomically sculpted headrest cushion.

In-flight entertainment

Singapore AIR IFE

The new airplanes will arrive with upgraded an KrisWorld in-flight entertainment systems, including video touch-screen handsets and larger LCD screens in all three classes (24 inches in First Class, 18 inches in Business Class and 11.1 in Economy Class).  

Social networking is the new thing here – with a Travel Forum application that will let passengers share travel tips. And in addition to the Berlitz language-learning program and the Culture Quest program that offers tips for doing business in other countries, the airline is adding DK Travel Guides for major cities and Flight Path iXplore, which offers information about points of interest airplanes are flying over.

Lessons learned at the Singapore Airlines Training Center – part 2

During a tour of the Singapore Airlines Training Center this week, there was a heavy emphasis on how well-trained the airline crews must be. (See this earlier post for some safety tips.)

But most people are much more interested to learn about the training regimen for the always-beautiful-and- incredibly-poised Singapore Girls that are the hallmark of the Singapore Airlines service.

Becoming a Singapore Girl (that’s the airline’s official term) is not only an honor; it’s hard work. Before taking to the air, Singapore Girls (and boys) must make it through an on-the-ground training course that is 3 1/2 months long – the longest in the industry.

And those chosen to be “transformed from trainees into gems,” explained Foo Juat Fang, assistant manager for cabin crew training – human factors and grooming, must excel in classes designed to teach everything from beauty and deportment to how to handle emergency situations and the age-old tradition of in-flight ‘souveniring’: the tendency of some passengers to pocket anything not tied down.

After watching a short role-playing session in which a class of trainees showed us how they might deal with a variety of stereotypical passengers, our tour group quizzed the instructors:

Q: How would you deal with a passenger complaining about other passengers gathering in the aisle and being too loud?

A: We might encourage the loud passengers to return to their seats ‘for safety’ and offer ear plugs to the person who was complaining.

Q: What would you do if you saw someone pocketing one of the Givenchy plates?

A: We’d assume that they do not know that is not appropriate. And mention that we’ll pass along to the airline the suggestion that there be a way for passengers to purchase these items.

Q: And how do Singapore Girls and all crew members maintain their energy and strength for those long 12-hour flights?

A: We encourage them to get plenty of rest before each flight and stay hydrated during the flight with water, not coffee or tea. And when they are off-duty, we encourage them to be active in sports such as as cycling, dragon boat racing and martial arts.

Q: What other secrets or special skills do you teach them?

A: We teach them to walk without being heard and, especially in business and First Class, we teach them to be there before you push the button – to read your mind.

Lessons learned from the Singapore Airlines Training Center – part 1

It’s been fun this week to learn about and, better yet, experience, the plush seats and top notch service offered to business and first class passengers on board Singapore Airlines’ new A380 service from JFK to Frankfurt and Singapore.

Demo of bed in First Class suite on Singapore AIrlines A380

But there’s also a serious side to these giant airplanes: safety.

That’s why I was so interested – and so attentive – on a tour of the Singapore Airlines Training Center.

A mock-up of the A380 is set up here and, on a tour of the facilities, we learned that not only is the drop from the door to the floor exactly the same height as it would be out in the ‘real ‘ world, but that every member of the Singapore Airline’s crew must return here each year for a training ‘check-up’ that includes deploying and going down these slides.

That way, if there’s an emergency, crew members “don’t think; they respond,” the trainer on duty told us.

I wondered what the famously polite Singapore Airlines crew members are taught to do in an emergency with a passenger who might balk at going down a slide.

“Those passengers would feel a gentle, but firm, push,” the trainer told us.

I would have liked to try out that evacuation slide, but thought twice about even asking to jump into the cold, choppy waves outside the water evacuation pod used for practice in the next room:

Noticing the heels and the outfits some members of our tour group were wearing, the trainer also offered some “dress for success” tips in case of a flying emergency: Thumbs up on loose slacks and low heels. Thumbs down on pantyhose, high heels and clothing apt to be flammable.

I’d heard those tips before – and mostly ignored them – but after getting a close look at these evacuation paths – and heights – I’m going shopping for new, safer, travel outfits.

Next up: Transforming flight attendant trainees into crew-worthy gems.


Note: I’m in Singapore as a guest of Singapore Airlines.