Can an Airline Amenity Kit Really Change Lives?

Can an Airline Amenity Kit Really Change Lives?

Amenity kits woven by Mexican artisans come in 5 patterns. Credit Delta Air Lines

Posted September 7, 2023

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Who doesn’t love to be spoiled by airline amenity kits? It’s a perk of upper-class travel to receive those little goodie bags filled with silk eye masks, rich hand lotion, lip balm, and maybe even a pair of pajamas. Sometimes the kits themselves are keepsakes, with brand name designers crafting handsome purses and pouches that can be repurposed after the flight. 

Not Your Ordinary Amenity Kit

One kit I received on a recent Delta flight from Seattle to Amsterdam made a lasting impression. For starters, the rich red and blue woven fabric set it apart. It looked like a small purse I would buy as a souvenir at an artisan market. During takeoff, I inspected the contents of the bag: earplugs, a bamboo toothbrush, socks, Grown Alchemist lip balm, along with a fabric eye mask in matching material. I was intrigued by a message on the inside flap inviting me to scan a QR code and meet the bag’s maker, Antonio T.

Scan the QR code to learn more about the bag's maker. Credit Delta Air Lines
Scan the QR code to learn more about the bag’s maker. Credit Delta Air Lines

When I returned home, I woke early from a restless, jet-lagged night of sleep and fished the amenity kit out of my carry-on.  I opened the flap, which was lined with map-printed fabric. Next to the QR code were two lines listing “someone” (Antonio T.) and “somewhere” (Michoacán).

I typed in Antonio’s name, and this message popped up:

“I think crafts are the best work because you create something from within. Whenever people buy something handmade, it is as if they took something from our land and a little of us left with them. I enjoy being at the loom; I feel that time is flying by, although I also really like being with my family and going out with my friends, with whom I have a soccer team. I am a defender, several of them are also artisans.”

Now that I had met Antonio, I was invited to leave him a message. I typed in my name and told him how much I loved the little fabric bag. I asked a few questions: how old are you? Do you have any children? I was excited to make a new connection in Mexico, and quickly hit send. It was then I realized that this was a one-way communication, more like a thank you note than a letter to a pen pal.

Supporting Textile Artists in Rural Mexico

That’s ok, it was still a cool experience to know even a little bit of his story. It turns out that Antonio is one of over 200 artisans from Mexico crafting fabric travel bags, baseball caps, and t-shirts for a company called Someone Somewhere. This Mexican manufacturing company is a Certified B Corporation with a commitment to improving the lives of people and the planet. Since their partnership with Delta to provide amenity kits began in 2022, Someone Somewhere has added more than 250 direct jobs for artisans living in Oaxaca, Michoacán, Puebla, and other rural areas of Mexico.

Some of the work has gone to Victoria and Lucero, who operate a family weaving center in a small Oaxacan village. They started their business with the goal of financial independence and spending more time with family. They weave colorful handmade fabric on a chicotillo loom, using their arms and legs to manipulate the yarn into bolts of cloth. It’s called a whip loom in English, named after the hand movements involved in operating this industrial-sized wooden loom. Watching the weavers at work is like watching a ballet; arms and legs fly in tandem motion on the pedals and pulleys of the weaving machine to create the finished textiles.

Mexican artisans fashion amenity kits. Credit Delta Air Lines
Mexican artisans fashion amenity kits. Credit Delta Air Lines

With the added business from the partnership, their neighbor Olegario bought two more looms and hired additional weavers. More women in the community have been able to learn the technique too, a craft traditionally performed by men.

In fact, 75% of the artisans making the amenity kits are women, including a single mom named Emma. “This project has helped me to be closer to my daughter since it allows me to be at home. My goal is for the workshop to grow and then be able to give work to other women who want to become independent and learn more about crafting,” she said.

Preserving Ancient Techniques

“Many of these artisans have been honing their craft for years without recognition,” said Antonio Nuño, CEO and co-founder of Someone Somewhere. “Through this project, they have seen the impact and value of their work and are being paid fairly.” Artisans in rural Mexico often struggle to make a living and are forced to switch to other jobs, putting these traditional art forms at risk of dying out. Large orders help preserve techniques like chicotillo weaving, traditionally passed down through generations. The environment benefits too; the fabric is made from 50% recycled cotton, and plastic waste has been reduced by eliminating zippers and packaging of traditional amenity kits.

“The final product is a piece of art for the passengers,” Victoria said. “This craftsmanship is the result of the whole community working together.” There’s a connection made between the traveler receiving the bag and the artisan, whose name and region is printed on the inside. Scan a few QR codes and you’ll meet weavers like Beatriz, who loves listening to local music, and Anselmo, whose favorite foods are cattle head soup and tres leches cake. They share a common hope that consumers will come to value the products for their uniqueness and the hard work and care that went into them.

Everyone craves connection. It’s why we go to our favorite coffee shop where the barista knows our order, or shop at the corner market and chat with the checker. We travel to learn about other cultures and meet the people who live there. I might never travel to Oaxaca, or Puebla, but every time I use my handwoven amenity kit (great for holding my reading glasses and sunglasses) I’ll think of Antonio and the other weavers creating magic on the loom. That will make me smile, and the world will feel just a little bit smaller and brighter.

Cover: Amenity kits woven by Mexican artisans come in 5 patterns. Credit Delta Air Lines

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  • Kirsten Harrington has been a freelance food and travel writer for over 12 years, chronicling adventures in the US and China. Her work has appeared in WhereTraveler, The Seattle Times, Edible Orlando, The Beijinger and numerous other publications. When she’s not writing, you can find her scoping out new adventures, hiking or enjoying a meal with her family. Follow Kirsten on her blog.