©istockphoto.com / blackred

©istockphoto.com / blackred

As a travel writer and editor, I’m on the road – or, more accurately, in Airworld – at least 100 days a year. I should be the ideal transumer, ready and eager to spend on goods and services that will make my travels more comfortable and memorable. But I rarely find them (notable exception: Emirates High Street shopping, especially its On the Move section, is like a transumer wish list). Why is this, when there are so many inspiring products passengers would love to sample, if only they were exposed to them? Here are a few ideas for airlines to better cater to travellers like me:

Pillow Flight

Challenge Untold dollars have been spent on chiropractors and massage therapists to correct what I call Painful Airline Seat Syndrome: head pitched forward, neck bent and cramped, lower back unsupported and sore. Sure, I’ve seen those inflatable pillows and seat liners that make airline seats more comfortable for sleeping or working, but why should we have to pack anything extra?

Spark A kiosk service, similar to InMotion’s DVD rental centres, could rent high-quality back-support cushions (we’re looking at you, Obus Forme) that travellers return at their destination airport. Better yet, why doesn’t an airline collaborate with a seating-design specialist, such as Herman Miller, to create truly ergonomic seating? We’d pay a premium for that kind of comfort.

Premium Coach

Challenge Long flights leave passengers in the back of the aircraft feeling bereft of the amenities, sleep and comforts of the front cabin. Most airlines already have the infrastructure to manage onboard sales, yet curiously few inflight or duty-free selections appeal to the long-haul passenger’s immediate needs.

Spark All the little creature comforts of a first-class experience can be sold as luxury-for-less perks to coach passengers, from amenity kits (containing useful items like antibacterial gel, cleansing wipes and an eye mask) to premium noise-cancelling earbuds or spa-quality personal care products. A wellness lifestyle company like Dove could create whole-aircraft campaigns – lavatory products, amenities for sale, a relaxation audio channel, its enlightening “real beauty” commercials (content in their own right) – around its brand in this way.


Challenge Airport bookstores are often glorified bestseller racks, offering little to the discerning leisure passenger or business traveller who lacked the time or foresight to pack a book. When I do find an airport bookstore gem, I often end up leaving it at my destination so I don’t have to lug it home.

Spark Audiobooks and e-books should become a standard offering on airline IFE programs, perhaps brought to passengers by natural partners like Amazon or Audible.  Content could be available on seatback screens, or ideally downloadable to passengers’ own devices. Inflight magazines wary of this kind of competition should take a hard look at their own pages: Why are we largely giving curious readers small morsels of destination and travel information in print, when what they crave on a long flight is a satisfying literary meal?

Marketers need to realize that an airplane is more than just a vehicle– it’s a unique and powerful medium through which brands can connect with and truly serve the savviest of travellers.

Next month: The Transumer looks at what hotels can do to satisfy the consumer in transit.