Unwrapping the secrets of onboard packaging

15 Dec 2016

Syreeta Tranfield, Event Director, World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE)

 An eye-catching design can make or break the success of a product.  When assessing the needs of goods designed for use onboard, impactful design must work alongside other important factors like size, durability and in some cases the ability to withstand altitude in order to deliver an engaging end product.

Packaging has progressed past mere functionality and while businesses are recognising that an aesthetically pleasing product can contribute to the overall customer experience, the design of onboard products must also strike a balance between practicality and creativity. This works to reflect the same standards passengers would expect to find on the high street and also, importantly helps communicate the personality of the brand.

Amongst the challenges in creating functional onboard packaging, ensuring minimal waste is key.   According to a recent report, on average, total inflight waste is estimated to be around 500kg per flight with paper packaging and menus contributing 32 to 71 percent of the total cabin and galley waste.

Ensuring onboard packaging waste is kept to a minimum is therefore essential, not only for operational efficiency, but also to protect the bottom line. Disposing of non-recyclable waste is expensive, and businesses are most likely to stock items which maximise profit margins and incur minimal waste costs.

Qantas, the flagship carrier airline of Australia, was recently able to reengineer the plastic bag previously used to package its headsets, with a sustainable, plastic-free solution. This has helped achieve both fuel efficiencies for the airline due to onboard weight savings as well as presenting a more environmentally-conscious image to its customers. 

Size and weight often need to be considered when designing packaging for use onboard.  Manufacturer Faerch Plast has developed a modular, lightweight material specifically for use in the airline industry’s on-board meal service.   Packaging of this kind is cheap, practical and can be branded with logos in a range of colours and textures to communicate the purpose of the product.

Impactful packaging design can help inform customers of its eco credentials and sometimes act as an incentive to try a new product.  Airlines often invest in companies that use recycled materials for onboard goods such as meal packaging, napkins and other hygiene products, to minimise waste and improve sustainability.

Amongst the companies implementing a sustainability model is WK Thomas, which has developed a new Hot Plate as part of its Eco-Heat collection.  Made from 100 percent sugarcane, the plate is designed to withstand both considerable heat and cold and has the benefit of being eco-friendly and fully degradable.

Another great way of contributing to the customer’s onboard experience is through personalised or even unique packaging.  The rise of digital printing technology is enabling businesses to explore the possibility of offering personalised gifts or amenities for passengers.

Airlines could take inspiration from brands like Oreo, which effectively implemented a personalised packaging campaign resulting in a large spike in revenues .  As well as this, Coca-Cola’s ‘Share A Coke’ campaign was recognised as being the most successful marketing campaign in its history.

Whether or not the onboard industry will emulate a trend of personalised packaging is a point of discussion, however, with the increasing popularity of premium first-class services, the idea of personalised packaged goods is certainly plausible.

Onboard product packaging must be innovative, and engaging, yet practical and even offer a level of personality which is no easy task.  If this can be achieved then not only are sales likely to see an increase, but it will also further improve the customer’s overall experience.

A range of leading packaging industry professionals including Kaelis, En Route International and WK Thomas will showcase their onboard packaging innovations at next year’s World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo, 4 -6 April 2017 in Hamburg. Exhibitors will have the opportunity to showcase their brand to an international audience of airline, rail and travel operators and discuss new business opportunities with more than 3,700 attendees. For more information, please visit www.worldtravelcateringexpo.com.



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