George Banks won our 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award following a long career in
inflight service. Here he looks back at the premium gift offerings of the past
The range of gifts given to passengers has constantly changed and was strictly governed by IATA rules in the sixties and seventies. Premium passengers could only be offered items that could be termed ‘for use inflight’, as gifts in the cabin. Never the less a huge array of items was offered from address books and paper fans to picture prints and flowers, wallets, pens, ties and scarves, watches, china ornaments, crystal glasses and shopping bags.
Gradually this gift became dominated by toiletries for use onboard and the amenity bag became a standard gift across airlines for premium passengers at least.
Style and quality were key from the start with the likes of Malaysia Singapore Airlines (MSA) offering Christian Dior toiletries in a pack of three small glass bottles in the early seventies, and famous designers such as Anya Hindmarch being commissioned to design original styles by the early eighties.
The contents began with slipper socks, eye mask, comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, and gradually became far more sophisticated with costly perfumes, aromatherapy products, branded facial and body creams and luxury brands such as Bulgari onboard.
Today almost every airline offers amenity bags. Many change them up to four times a year with exclusive collectables adding a reason to book for some passengers.
Bags now boast post-flight uses too from iPad case to clutch bag, make-up case to gadget store, and new items include charging cables, guide books and items tailored to specific journeys. Prints and colours are vivid and styles constantly evolve. With this year’s launch of the Lalique aromatherapy candle in a crystal glass and full bottles of perfume or aftershave on Singapore Airlines we seem to be back to where we began with the focus once more on true gifting. KLM has offered its collection of Dutch miniature houses since the 1950s. This souvenir reflects the home destination and has become very popular with passengers. The Anya Hindmarch retro bags for First became very popular and collectable for British Airways in the nineties. Designer Anya Hindmarch clearly
had fun with the beautiful BA Heritage collection featuring black and white photographs of flying boats, Stratocruisers and vintage