Airline amenity kits and other onboard offerings are changing thanks to a growing passenger demand for sustainability and reduced waste, as well as unique products that reflect where the airline is from. The best attempts manage to achieve all of these things and offer something memorable to passengers. In this article about the best recent efforts in sustainability, Icelandair’s very special amenity kits were a highlight. What better way to further explore this trend, and talk about where it’s headed, than to speak to the designer of those very kits?
Born and raised in the south of Italy, Luigi Auricchio has a background in material engineering and product design. He developed his expertise in fashion and textiles combining material research and design – first in London, then in Shanghai and now in New York City. He recently joined travel brand Away as Director of lifestyle accessories.
–You’ve been designing travel accessories for airlines for a number of years. How have you seen that area change?
I started designing a variety of travel accessories for airlines in 2013 – travel bags, amenity kits, bedding sets, etc. Over that time there’s been an evolution in what the airlines want. At first most airlines were asking for product functionality and innovation that could help passengers have a better experience throughout their journey. A few years later, branded collaborations became a major focus. Airlines were seeking brand partners to help add value through association.This was both very interesting and sometimes challenging from a design perspective because budgets hadn’t increased and therefore designing for functionality took a hit to compensate for licensing fees. Recently, sustainability has become a major focus. My first request was an attempt to eliminate plastic packaging, so I started using sustainable and recycled materials and requesting documentation from the suppliers to ensure a sustainable production process.
–How did you approach the Icelandair project? Did Icelandair have specific ideas or did they give you freedom to come up with something?
The Icelandair team was really open to ideas and very collaborative. They wanted to make a kit that could represent Iceland in some way and use more sustainable material for their kits. After researching the Icelandic culture and landscape, I realized how necessary it was for me to go there for inspiration to help understand the essence of the country in person. Thanks to Iris Anna Groeneweg, Icelandair’s Onboard Procurement Manager, I was lucky to experience an airplane ride that flew over the incredible Icelandic landscape.
The diversity of Iceland is outstanding. It has a modern city contrasted by its vast natural landscape. There’s a real respect for community and nature. I met with emerging designers and founders of local brands, and got to know how they care about their natural resources and how their products respect the environment. This inspired me to take on a fully sustainable, eco-centric approach to the project, which was vital in reflecting Icelandair’s brand identity.
My team and I produced different concepts inspired by distinctive features of the Icelandic nature until we landed on the wildlife, dedicating the collection to the animal species that are peculiar to this country. We selected four animals: the puffin, the arctic fox, the Icelandic horse and the raven. Each animal’s features inspired the design details of the kits, from the colors, to the material’s texture, to the zipper puller details, the inner lining print, and the bag’s shape. Another key value was the eco-friendly features of the collection, including felt made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled canvas, cornstarch-based biodegradable material for the dental kit and paper for the packaging.
–Would you say sustainability is the most important thing in travel product design right now?
Sustainability is becoming an integral part of how the travel industry is approaching product design, but where it sits as a priority does vary by airline and part of the world. Some airlines are still more closely linked to the traditional luxury experience which I think many passengers don’t identify with anymore. I personally think that eliminating plastic packaging and making sure there are sustainable production processes is already a key step in waste reduction. And then creating products that have a longer life and can be used over time rather than just once. That’s really important.
–What does the future hold for inflight products and amenities?
In the travel industry it’s no secret that sustainability has become a big buzzword, with great pressure on airlines to reinvent and decarbonize aviation in the long term. Most travel companies are now trying to stay away from plastic packaging and are seeking creative solutions for their onboard products. Aesthetic and functionality are becoming very important again but this time it’s all about reusability.
Airlines will continue to research and develop innovative technologies to achieve a full decarbonization. This will be reflected in a reimagining of onboard products and sustainable solutions to minimize environmental impact, either by designing truly sustainable products or by deconstructing the traditional amenity kit to offer passengers the option to choose only what they need. You’ll see airlines paying closer attention to travel services and personalization, and offering individual onboard products that passengers can pick and choose from is one way to make this shift. This selection will eventually be included in a pre-book menu, similar to how we can pre-book meals.