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In-flight Goods To-Go

Behold the first-class amenity kit—that precious goody bag that makes airline travel (especially with an unexpected upgrade) a tad more enjoyable. No matter how many sleeping masks, plush socks, and sample-size hand lotions we accumulate, like kids on Christmas morning we can't wait to tear into the packages. Airlines have long understood the psychological benefits of in-flight gifts and, thankfully, the booty just keeps getting better. In an effort to lure the elusive first-class-paying traveler, they're switching stale brands for hipper, newer ones. According to Joan Vincenz, Delta's managing director of product marketing, research reveals that the airline's premium customer is now concerned about organic ingredients and fresh packaging. Gone are the old L'Occitane products; these days, Delta passengers prefer lemongrass-wasabi soap. And in an era of increased competition, international carriers are realizing they can express their individuality through, say, a lavender-and-chamomile "sniff box."

Watermark Group, an English company that makes kits for more than 100 carriers, including everything from small charter companies to national flagships, currently sells 3 million bags each month, up from 1.5 million two years ago. And airlines across the globe are taking first-class amenities a step further. On Cathay Pacific, kits are accompanied by a pair of Shanghai Tang pajamas instead of no-name-brand cotton pj's. When so many niceties of travel have fallen victim to bottom-line bean counters, it's reassuring to see this tradition thriving.

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