How airlines are catering to their smallest customers: children

By Shivani Vora

Updated

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.

Paul Tumpowsky, a father of a toddler daughter and the co-founder and chief executive of the New York travel agency Skylark, said that 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 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.

“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,” said Paul Tumpowsky, a father of a toddler daughter and the co-founder and chief executive of the New York travel agency Skylark. David Gee / Alamy Stock Photo

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 colorful 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 such as The Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, the 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 antiskid socks that they can wear onboard.

Turkish Airlines has several new onboard offerings for children. They receive a sack of three sustainably-made wooden figurines like pandas and soldiers, and a backpack amenity kit that includes a child-sized 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.

On Singapore Airlines the cabin crew gives out toys to children based on their age. Babies, for example, receive plush blocks, while pre-school-age youngsters 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.

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

JetBlue recently debuted kid-focused videos from Headspace, a meditation service, as part of its in-flight entertainment. One of the videos, for example, is a 5 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 onboard for $9, it includes M&M’s, popcorn, Fig Newtons, Parmesan cheese crisps and salami slices.

The New York Times

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