No child's play for airlines as they seek to woo kids

Emirates children's kits are packed with crafts projects, socks, travel journals and more to help young passengers pass the time, as airlines find new ways to attract customers amid intense competition.
Emirates children's kits are packed with crafts projects, socks, travel journals and more to help young passengers pass the time, as airlines find new ways to attract customers amid intense competition.PHOTO: NYTIMES

To win more customers, carriers focus on young passengers' entertainment needs, interests

NEW YORK • Airlines are constantly trying to find new ways to win customers.

In this never-ending competition, carriers - mostly international ones - are now turning their attention to their youngest passengers, wooing children (and beleaguered parents) with new amenities such as toys, child-friendly toiletry kits, meals and amped-up seat-back entertainment.

Mr Paul Tumpowsky, father of a toddler and co-founder and chief executive of New York travel agency Skylark, said these new amenities go a long way in keeping children occupied on long flights.

"If children are happy, then parents are happy, and they associate the airline with a positive flying experience and are more likely to choose it for future trips," he said.

"KIDS KITS" KEEP CHILDREN SEATED, HAPPY AND QUIET

Emirates recently introduced a kit that young passengers receive as soon as they board.

It contains a travel-themed reusable bag or lunch box, a colouring book with markers, and an arts and crafts project such as an origami kit.

Older children get an animal backpack with a travel journal, and babies and toddlers get a stuffed animal such as an elephant or alligator.

In addition, the airline has an expanded menu of children's in-flight meals including chicken tenders and various kinds of pasta, served on a colourful tray.

To keep them satiated between meals, children get a snack box with a cookie and sliced fruit.

Qatar Airways also has a new activity pack for children with crayons, colouring pages, stickers and a puzzle book.

Infants get a stuffed toy, along with a plush book. The airline has also introduced new seat-back entertainment aimed at children.

It includes more than two dozen family-friendly movies that change monthly, and children's television channels such as Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and BabyTV.

Qantas also offers a kit with an activity book with puzzles and word games and even an Etch A Sketch toy.

On select international flights, youngsters get colourful anti-skid socks that they can wear on board.

Turkish Airlines has several new on-board offerings for children.

They get a sack of three sustainably made wooden figurines like pandas and soldiers, and a backpack amenities kit that includes a child-size headset, a dental kit, socks and slippers.

Parents with babies get a kit with a diaper changing mat, disposable bib, rash cream, baby lotion and shampoo, a packet of wipes and a breast pad.

TOYS AND VIDEOS KEEP CHILDREN CALM AND ENTERTAINED

On Singapore Airlines, the cabin crew gives out toys to children based on their age. Babies, for example, receive plush blocks, while pre-schoolers get mini puzzles and older children get a Monopoly Deal card game. The airline plans to change the toys quarterly.

Young passengers also get to pick from a children's menu with more than a dozen items, like a burger with fries, fish sticks with diced vegetables and pancakes with sausage.

When it comes to domestic carriers, American low-cost airline JetBlue recently debuted child-focused videos from Headspace, a meditation service, as part of its in-flight entertainment.

One of the videos, for example, is a five-minute cartoon that teaches children how to stay calm on a flight.

The airline also has a new Party Up food box designed with youngsters in mind.

Sold on board for US$9 (S$12.30), it includes M&M's, popcorn, Fig Newtons, Parmesan cheese crisps and salami slices.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2018, with the headline 'No child's play for airlines as they seek to woo kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe