Many toddlers and young children are now more proficient with an iPad than I am. Their short time on earth has been plagued by not just COVID-19, but by screens – which for many became lifelines to family and friends and education during lockdown.
Pandemic aside, screens and technology are increasingly a part of childhood, replacing time spent drawing or playing with toys with apps and cartoons on demand. So as we edge deeper into the digital age, how are suppliers keeping kids engaged onboard? For the most part it seems the focus is on using time travelling to come away from the screens and engage in the real world.
Time to learn
Fiji Airways and Air Astana (with its partner Kaelis) are using the onboard opportunity to raise awareness around the environment with kits focused on entertaining and educating at the same time.
Fiji Airways’ Our Ocean, Our Life kit highlights the animals and eco hazards hitting the ocean through a child-friendly story book, and Air Astana’s Eco Future In The Skies concept aims to highlight ways the airline industry can be more sustainable with backpacks made of recycled PET bottles and no added plastic packaging. Inclusions are traditional games, puzzles and colouring as well as a travel pillow and anti-skid socks. For older kids (7-11) a smartphone protector case recognises kids’ tech obsessions and a QR code links them to the story of the anti-skid socks.
AK-Service has worked on an ECO kit too focused around nature and themed around: the protection of forests and trees, protection of water and water animals, protection of rare animals and protection of the atmosphere. The activity books help children understand the importance of nature.
“The most important part when designing children kits is to consider both children and parents,” says Aleksandr Ferents, CEO of AK-Service. “You have to make a product which will be educational and eco-friendly, and at the same time, exciting and desirable for children who are mostly interested in mobile apps. We also always think about the other passengers onboard, so we use packages which are quiet and games without loud sounds.”
Integrating family-favourite characters into onboard products can offer a sense of familiarity to children onboard, as well as increasing the reuse value post-flight. For example, Finnair has introduced Moomin kits celebrating the iconic cartoon. “When you start designing kits, you think about second use,” says Wolfgang Bücherl, managing director at Skysupply, whose team created the kits. “You want to entertain the kids onboard and also after the flight, so it should not be a single-use product. It should not be something they use for a few minutes and then throw away, it should be something that keeps the memories of a nice pleasant flight alive, and it should feel like a present.”
Children flying with Finnair receive a rucksack ideal for school or sports use after the flight, an inflatable Moomin pillow, a ‘magic’ puzzle cube with Moomin characters and Finnair icons on, dental kit and slippers.
Skysupply has also developed a range of kids’ kits for Air Mauritius, for which they created a cool dodo cartoon character to link the kit to the home base island of Mauritius.They branded the offer the ‘Crazy Bird’s Club’ and coupled it with a cool graffiti-style design which appears across a draw-string bag, a cap, a water bottle, playing cards and a baseball cap – all products designed to be enjoyed on holiday and beyond.
Buzz continues to develop its big brand collaborations for kids but increasingly with an eco twist. They’re connecting Disney favourites like Aladdin, Lion King, Captain Marvel and Dumbo with Singapore Airlines but replacing all plastic items with paper and card, and removing all plastic packaging to tick the sustainability priorities of the airline. Appealing to kids of all ages, the products are designed based on trends research and a thorough understanding of the developmental needs and abilities of all ages to ensure the range delivers fun, entertainment, education, and comfort. Included are comforting plush toys, functional keepsakes, as well as entertaining and educational activities that inspire creativity and interaction.
Children’s kits offer a chance for airline branding and messaging that will follow a family long after their flight ends. “A well-designed kit will build solid emotional ties between the airlines and the children,” says Nathalie Bahon, Augusta CEO. “They are designed to be kept after the flight, to be brought home and reused for years to come.”
Augusta has collaborated with Air France on its baby and children’s kits. For the new baby offer (from 0 to 24 months), passengers in La Première, Business or Premium Economy cabins are offered a Kraft box in which they discover a pretty quality cotton pouch, a rabbit cuddly toy and a tube of organic thermal cleansing water. Economy passengers just receive the toy, styled to be a early years favourite. Kits for older kids are also innovative – presented in a Kraft folder.
A new range of kids’ products onboard Etihad aim to build excitement for holidays ahead. The airline’s new children’s kits and meal service in partnership with Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, was created by Haoliwen. For infants up to two years old, parents receive a soft fleece blanket decorated with the faces of Tweety, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Sylvester to take home. Young flyers, aged three to eight years, get a drawstring bag featuring an activity book, crayons, memory card game and passport holder, and tweens and teens aged nine to 13 receive a Scooby-Doo themed backpack featuring a Museum of Mysteries board game.
It’s not just kits that can add value to a young passenger’s journey. Incorporating fun elements into the meal service can build additional excitement. For example, Etihad has continued its Warner Bros association through to the branding of mealtimes, with young travellers receiving Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi themed dining equipment in bright colours.
“Passenger experience is a key theme, understandably, within our industry and for younger consumers this becomes ever-more important,” says Richard Wake, creative director at En Route International. “Not only are we considering the child itself, but also the parents who equally depend on inflight engagement for their children if they are to have a more relaxing and positive guest experience.”
En Route’s Scribbles and Nibbles offer is a child-friendly snack box that gives younger travellers a variety of creative activities alongside a selection of nutritious snacks.
The product has been developed with functionality and sustainability in mind; the size and depth of the product being optimised for onboard storage.
Within the easy to open folder, children find a range of entertaining items to keep them engaged. In-keeping with En Route’s sustainable approach to product development, the folder can be re-used to store other personal items away from the flight, meaning less wastage.