New American Airlines Business Class Amenity Kits Are Actually Just Cardboard Boxes

The Cheapening continues. While some airlines offer business class passengers amenities inside nice leather reusable bags, or hard side plastic Tumi suitcases, American Airlines has been giving out a new amenity kit in international business class that’s made out of cardboard.

It’s supposedly a test appearing on London routes and more ‘sustainable.’ As one customer puts it though, how are these “more reusable” than the bags we take home and reuse? United uses recycled plastic, but that’s still not cardboard.

This plastic cup photo offers a side view of the cardboard box.

This saddens me. Such a far cry from the 2019-era kits.

2019 First Class Amenity Kit

2019 Business Class Amenity Kit

An amenity kit is both about delivering useful items to the passenger for use inflight, and also a nice branded takeaway. Key elements of an amenity kit are:

  • Useful inflight items. A good kit ought to include toothpaste and toothbrush; comb; tissues; hand sanitizer; perhaps cologne; a pen (for those countries that still require paper forms); mouth wash; moisturizer; chap stick; body lotion.

  • Premium brand partnership. Singapore Airlines always stood out to me for large-sized amenities, not just small sample sizes. For years they offered Ferragamo, hard to pick a more premium name. I really liked Ferragamo Tuscan Soul. Full-sized premium items are great for my home guestroom bath. Air Canada business class has an Acqua di Parma partnership. It introduces the premium passenger to the premium brand, and associates the premium airline product with high quality.

  • A useful premium bag as a takeaway. Not only is it a reminder of the flight, but it’s a cool giveaway that leads to telling stories about the flight and airline to loved ones at all, both spreading the word about the product and reinforcing positive emotions about the airline. For many years I used an ANA first class amenity kit as my shaving bag. For the past three years I’ve used an old Cathay Pacific one.

In contrast, cardboard is a throwaway not a keepsake. I thought the US Airways low cost mindset had fully embedded inside of American Airlines years ago, but upon taking the helm two years ago CEO Robert Isom told employees not to spend a dollar they don’t have to and that appears to mean cutbacks to the most expensive American Airlines products.

American Airlines Flagship First Class serves the same meals as business class, plus a soup course. they’ve dropped wine lists from business class for the next few months, with the airline telling customers to talk through wine options with flight attendants who have been given no new training on wines.

And while new amenity kits, bedding, and meals are supposed to be introduced with new business class seats that should first be delivered with the next round of Boeing 787-9 aircraft if cardboard amenity kits are any indication I’m not hopeful. Delta introduced indigenous amenity kits that ‘reduce single use plastics’ and American said hold my non-GMO biodynamic beer.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — Hopefulluy the meals aren’t made of cardboard, too (be sure to avoid the pork buns), although that may improve their taste.

  2. I still use my very old United First Class brownish-grey amenity kit bags from way back when United offered Dom in F. That seems way more sustainable than a cardboard box.

  3. I have to say that I’m not altogether sure UA and DL are much better in terms of “The Cheapening”. They just have the good sense not to be so obvious about it.
    I had high hopes when Robert Isom took over from his predecessor — who was great financial engineer and all around convivial fellow, if not so much a a CEO — but he has not done a good job. When AA acknowledges it is doing well with its premium passengers in terms of $$, I’d have to conclude Isom attended the Ed Bastion academy of customer satisfaction.
    Once my miles are used up, I am sadly giving up on AA. Already have a Star Alliance FF account, next Flying Blue (Friends don’t let friends join SkyMiles).
    I read Gary’s posts about flying Singapore to the UK and Europe and it’s making more and more sense.

  4. I’d be fine if amenity kits were on request only. Provision enough for every pax, and just keep the extras for future flights. Cost saving, waste saving. Invest the difference in catering.

    Most of the time all i want is the toothbrush/paste and the eye mask / plugs and even then I usually have a toothbrush/past close at hand in my carryon.

    Those could be kept in baskets as well as individual items.

  5. Economy class should be given these cardboard kits. That would be appreciated.

    I keep and use all my amenity kits. The pouches are handy for many things ranging from keeping round tire gauges to toiletries to keeping napkins in the car, etc.

  6. I just flew Qantas domestic J. Food was great, seats comfortable. We couldn’t help comparing it to crap seats and crap food on American domestic J.

  7. I love my Emirates kits.

    The SIN ones we got a few months ago were pretty cheesy. Not worth asking for.

    Do still have a DL Tumi one. Quantas was cheesy but still use my pjs.

  8. Funny thing is, the current AA Flagship First bags are of such cheap quality, I question what the cost difference even is between producing that, and a cardboard box.

  9. Just wait until the wooden “tableware” & meal containers make their way to the pointy end of the plane!

    That garbage is awful, absolutely awful.

  10. I rather the useless kits be dropped and they put the savings into food. Of course, they will drop the kits and cheapen the food.

  11. many who fly business class, do so more than once or twice , so how many of the little sacks does one really need? cardboard is recyclable if done properly and that seems like a good idea- I agree- put out the items and have passengers only take what they need- use less, waste less- The food is a whole other issue- in premium economy on a recent 9 hour int’l flight- my veggie meal was white rice, overcooked carrots and peas- and a suboptimal salad- stale bread-

  12. I will say that I would find it very annoying to have many bags pile up if I was a regular premium class traveler. I’d prefer to receive the nice bag once and then cardboard after that.

  13. @Arguendo: It’s a new partnership with Public Storage. Soon you’ll get loyalty points on all insurance policies purchased on your storage lockers, but only if applied for with your flight attendant on today’s flight.

  14. Does anyone really care about the amenity kits? Frankly I’m fine if airline quit giving them out and maybe had toothbrushes and eye shades on demand. How cheap do you have to be to actually reuse them? I mean I never even use anything in the kits and then end up throwing them away. Anyone excited about airline amenity kits has a very shallow life.

  15. @AC

    Spoken like someone who hasn’t gotten an Emirates amenity kit.

    It’s beyond the eye shade, dental kit, etc. Nice lotions, etc.

  16. @Patti- I flew Emirates JFK-Milan and frankly don’t even remember the amenity kit. Personally I buy what I need and everything I own is nicer than what any airline will give me. They just pile up in my closet until I throw them away. To value something that is passed out to the masses is really sad. Don’t count on handouts for things you want or need.


  18. First world, first class problems.

    I agree that it would make the most sense to just make available whatever items you may need in a basket in the galley. I typically use the mini tooth brush kit, lip balm, hand cream, and keep the pen. I prefer my own eye mask and the rest just goes to waste.

    Oh, and I simply love, love, love the eye glasses cleaning cloth carefully woven by blind Belgian nuns from the remnants of St. Martin the Whiner’s original 11th century microfibre cloak. By the way, this amenity kit is only available in first class on Brussels Air on Thursdays. To whit, I have also launched an official complaint via social media that I prefer Tuesdays.

  19. @derek you may be on to something. I’d love to see a whole comments section dedicated to repurposing ideas. I see people comment about what they use the old kits for and I say, “gee, wish I’d have thought of that.” “Napkins in the car”? genius.

  20. They’ve looked at what Qatar Airways have done with the Diptyque gift boxes.

    American could save money by doing what QR does – toothbrushes, toothpaste and razors are available in drawers in the toilet if you need them. It cuts down on cost and plastic waste.

  21. A perfect example of “Being Cheap” in the name of Virtue Signaling…er…I mean “Going Green”. If they really want to save the planet they should park all their jets, recycle them into Bud Light cans or carbon fiber solar shields for cats, and call it quits.

  22. C’monif you’re flying business more than 2 times a year, you’re likely just leaving them on the plane like I do. Cardboard is fine with me. Everything needs to move to this kind of packaging or it literally ends up in the ocean and eventually degrades to micro plastics.

  23. Obv AA will soon discontinued First and Business class, after research shows that they do not command a revenue premium for products that are essentially self-loading cargo in slightly larger spaces.

    Of course, the crappy stuff you get on US and an increasing number of EU carriers is rather useless and I often just leave it on the flight. However, Asian carriers usually provide items of actual utility. Moisturizing cream I might actually use, face masks, pens, glass-cleaning cloths. Basically, the sort of things that are not only useful on board, but also the perfect size to stash in my laptop bag for long days of meetings and such.

  24. I got a cardboard amenity kit flying Qatar Airways Biz from Washington Dulles to Doha last March. AA’s not the first to use cardboard.

  25. Qatar started this trend a while back with their ‘bespoke boxes’ and no one pointed it out; just saying.

  26. Flying is expensive…let us cheapen the experience. As an aside, the cardboard is made from recycled toilet paper.

  27. I daresay, I look very macho in the UA Polaris sleeping pajamas. (Another story for another time). As for nice leather or hard side plastic (what is that) amenity kits, I don’t have a personal preference; isn’t it all about health & beauty aisle product marketing partnership, anyway? I’m happy with my textile fiber amenity bags. I never got a cardboard amenity kit; as long as I don’t get a papercut, I’d be just as happy with cardboard. Considering current classless AA passengers, I could see LV emblazoned kits, or MK or even Juicy Couture being welcomed by passengers. I mean, it’s not like AA is competing with such top ten airlines as EK or QR.

  28. I have dropped a number of these off at Goodwill. I also give them to co workers who fly Southwest. How many do i really need ? Can only fit so many toiletries in you luggage.

  29. My amenity kits all wind up in the garbage. I always feel badly throwing leather bags out and I try to gift them, but the sad reality is that they are good for nothing, can’t be repurposed, and just wind up in the trash. Cardboard is fine with me.

  30. I’ve now received boxes for business class on Qatar, Virgin, and American. Get over yourself, Gary; are you going to argue Qatar is less posh because they do almost exactly the same box? How about Singapore who don’t even do a kit? The reality is that people who fly business fly it a lot and don’t have unlimited uses for these bags that eventually stack up. I’m quite sure, as is American, Qatar, Virgin, and Singapore, that those who actually fly business often are not concerned about the kit container.

  31. My favorite kits were the hard sided Tumi kits Delta used to use. The new ones are a really cheap burlap bag from Mexico.

  32. I mean they’re not the only one. Virgin went over to cardboard type pouches ages ago, so did Jetblue and recently I’ve noticed JetBlue don’t appear to be giving out amenity kits in mint at all except the basic eye mask and earplugs (maybe you have to ask). Additionally Jetblue transatlantic used to have a rubber type pouch in economy and that seems to have vanished now too. Perhaps a better idea if they want to cut costs would just be say the (non card) kits are available on request. Some people will take them and keep them, others won’t care and won’t necessarily ask for one.

  33. Blame the Harvard MBA types that have infested major American corporations, including the airlines. These MBA’s are trained like monkeys, just to make more money for the stockholders. These MBA’s have zero clue and zero focus about actually offering a better product. Or about the welfare of the customer or the employees.
    Thus, the cardboard boxes. Personally I have ZERO loyalty to any domestic airline. They are all garbage. Amd they’ve all dumbed down their “loyalty” programs to the point where they’re not worth it. And the food is an absolute joke.
    Good job, MBA’s!

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