Unusual collection: Airline amenity kits (photos)

The contents of airline amenity kits have not changed much over the years. This is a United kit from the 1960s (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

This is a United kit from the 1960s (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

The airline inflight amenity kit has been a staple of business travel since the 1950’s when transoceanic air travel became relatively common.

The kits really came into their own in the 1950’s when a company called the AirTex of Des Moines, Iowa had a virtual monopoly on what it called R.O.N. (Remain Over Night) kits, which contained the essential accouterments for going to sleep and waking up refreshed.

Contents have evolved over the years, but the basics remain much the same. Back in the day, there were “his” and “her” kits. His contained deodorant, aftershave, hair cream, a razor and a comb. Hers included hair spray, cleansing cream, hand cream and nail polish remover.

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 2.45.00 PMOver the years, eye masks, towelettes, socks or booties, lip balm, mints and facial spritzers have made their way into and out of the kits. Airline branded soap and washcloths were there, too. Then there are the blankets, robes, kimonos and slippers.

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The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport has one of the best collections of aviation memorabilia in the world, which it displays in a large space in the International Terminal and in various exhibitions in airport concourses.

Museum curator Dennis Sharp told TravelSkills, “The most unusual kit in the collection is the President Special, a sleek gold anodized tube that was given to first class passengers on Pan Am Stratocruiser ‘sleeperette’ service between New York and London.” (See photo below)

Currently, its collection of R.O.N. kits and similar inflight amenities is on display in at SFO’s Terminal 1, pre-security, near the corridor that connects it to the International Terminal.

For those who don’t have the time to drop by, here’s my take (and photos) of this unusual collection. (On display through September 30, 2014)

Do you have an old or unusual inflight amenity kit you’d like to donate to the collection? If so, the SFO Museum would love to hear from you. Contact Curator by clicking here. 

What do you do with your left over amenity kits? I store all mine in an old suitcase in my basement! I can’t bear the thought of throwing them away.  Please leave your comments below!

From now defunct Hughes Airwest. Check out the bottle of haircream and tube of deodorant! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

A kit from the 1970s from now defunct Hughes Airwest. Check out the bottle of haircream and tube of deodorant! (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Does anyone remember Alaska's Golden Nugget jets? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Does anyone remember Alaska’s Golden Nugget jets? (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Check out the BEDS upstairs on that mock up of a JAL 747 along w a collection of eye masks (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Check out the BEDS upstairs on that mock up of a JAL 747 along w a collection of eye masks (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TWA's woolen sleep socks kept business class feet warm on cold overnight flights (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

TWA’s woolen sleep socks kept business class feet warm on cold overnight flights (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Pan Am's President Special- a sleek anodized gold tube and razor (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Pan Am’s President Special- a sleek anodized gold tube and razor (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

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More kits from the 1960s and 1970s. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

More kits from the 1960s and 1970s. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Please join the 85,000 people who read TravelSkills every month! Sign up here for one email per day updates!

Do you have an old or unusual inflight amenity kit you’d like to donate to the collection? If so, the SFO Museum would love to hear from you. Contact Curator by clicking here. 

What do you do with your left over amenity kits? I store all mine in an old suitcase in my basement! I can’t bear the thought of throwing them away.  Please leave your comments below!

–Chris McGinnis

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  • Scott H

    My sister works in an inner city school in Rochester. Kids who behave get special coupons and can use them at a little student store and love the amenity kits!

  • Domak

    I gave my old amenity kits to a neighbour who volunteers with DFACS to give to children who are being taken from an abusive home. They often do not have even a toothbrush never mind a carry on type bag, I also gave her my old usable luggage. In all my years of travel some odd items were shampoo…to wash your hair in the planes toilet??? another was a laxative and the latest odd thing was a condom my husband got in his amenity kit on Air France….the female kit did not have one. I guess this was the start of the “Mile High Club”

  • JohnATL

    Reillypie – Several years ago, I tried the same thing with the Hilton Hotels. Their legal people were concerned about possible suits from the recipients of the soap, shampoo etc. Go figure!

  • Reillypie

    No, not that I know of. We just have them in our offices where we check in for work. If you were to give it to a flight attendant it probably wouldn’t work out, as they may not be heading into an office for days and would have to carry the items around with them all that time.
    You could look up online where a nearby shelter is, or if you have a Red Cross office anywhere near you they would appreciate having them too. They give them out to people displaced during emergencies, whether it be a national one or just a family who is burned out of their homes. They buy the supplies with donations, so this would save alot of money. Also , in regard to SFO, they have a USO lounge, they love travel sized items too for our military who miss their flights, or have to spend the night and don’t have their luggage, situations like that.
    Hope this helps!
    ( If all else fails, donate to a thrift store. There is one near me that supports a women’s shelter)

  • Parque_Hundido

    Are there boxes where passengers can donate these kits? Where are they? Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Parque_Hundido

    I have about two hundred of these amenity kits cluttering up the very back of our deepest closet. I’d love to donate them to a shelter – any suggestions? Are there collection boxes at SFO? Where?

  • Reillypie

    If you have a large collection, why not keep the bags as you get them, if you like the bags, but donate the supplies to battered women’s shelters, or homeless shelters? I work for the airlines, at all domiciles we have collection boxes for the never ending supply of hotel shampoos, lotions, and such. That way you aren’t throwing them out, and you won’t need to keep them all, they are still getting used. Win/win!

  • travel2much

    Great display at SFO of these “ammenity” kits I should have donated my collection from my closet which would have been to my wife’s delight! I have gotten very picky about what comes with me now!