May 20, 2024

Improving passenger wellbeing

Polly Magraw, event director World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE), gives her thoughts on improving passenger wellbeing onboard

Many different elements combine to make up the airline passenger experience – food, drink, inflight entertainment and cabin crew to name a few. Getting it right is crucial and one area where operators can really set themselves apart from the rest.

Passenger wellbeing is a vitally important part of the overall travel mix and focuses on ensuring the journey is as comfortable – and safe – as possible. In the past, amenity kits featuring basic creature comforts were a staple onboard, however advancements in technology, brand partnerships, sustainable operations, and, most importantly, the coronavirus pandemic have changed this drastically. Safety is now much higher up the agenda, leading airlines to focus on new and improved ways to restore and maintain passenger confidence.

Over the years, the purpose of amenity kits has changed from preventing discomfort to promoting comfort. The very first commercial flights saw passengers given chewing gum to stop their ears popping! This quickly progressed to providing pillows and blankets on overnight flights, and in more recent times items such as sleepwear, toiletries and even luxury fragrances.

However, one of the biggest drivers for change in recent years has been the removal of single-use plastic packaging and products from amenity kits. This focus on sustainability is something that is playing out across all aspects of the passenger experience and is being driven by heightened concerns for the environment, particularly among younger travellers.

While sustainability will continue to be one of the biggest challenges for the industry long-term, more recently, health and safety concerns associated with COVID-19 have propelled hygiene into the spotlight. As a result, many carriers have started providing complimentary kits, which at the very least contain a face mask, hand sanitiser, and disinfectant wipes. The simple provision of these items goes a long way to alleviate a passenger’s concern about safety.

Evidently, onboard amenity kits have evolved in line with the wellbeing needs of passengers. While we all hope COVID-19 will soon be a thing of the past thanks to mass vaccine programmes, it will not be instantly forgotten. There will still be a lack of confidence amongst some travellers for several years to come and so it is likely that increased hygiene practices will continue.

As the aviation industry continues its recovery, we can expect greater investment into other areas of passenger wellbeing. A gravitation back towards sustainability will be inevitable, as well other innovative initiatives such as Virgin Australia’s partnership with Smiling Mind, bringing mindfulness and meditation to the skies!

WTCE Virtual will take place from 14-16 September online.

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