Tailored for sleeping in flight: Casper products on board American Airlines. Image via American Airlines

APEX Insight: Direct-to-consumer companies are flying their products on board, where a captive airline audience awaits.

In December, American Airlines (AA) began offering bedding developed by Casper, a US online mattress and sleep products company, in collaboration with airline amenity supplier Wessco International, in its premium cabins on long-haul international and transcontinental routes.

In contrast to an earlier Casper campaign, during which the company drove a “bedmobile” around New York City, inviting passers-by to test its mattresses for 15 minutes at a time, AA’s bedding program enables the direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand to showcase its products to a premium audience over a full night’s sleep. “This collaboration brings together the best of two worlds, resulting in superior sleep products designed specifically for American Airlines,” Wessco chief marketing officer Petros Sakkis says. The partnership involved extensive research, with prototype testing and development taking months before the products met AA’s requirements.

AA’s bedding program enables the D2C brand to showcase its products to a premium audience over a full night’s sleep.

If the airline industry mirrors the consumer landscape, D2C brands will definitely begin to feature more prominently. JetBlue has already engaged with popular D2C brand Birchbox to offer Mint passengers amenity kits filled with samples from different brands (which have since been replaced with kits from Hayward & Hopper), and Wessco recently added online luggage brand Away to its partner roster. The suitcase company touts a D2C approach, which eliminates middlemen markups, thereby reducing the final cost for consumers, as the way it maintains quality without sacrificing accessibility.

A broader shift toward engagement with D2C companies seems to work in favor of airlines, too. Aligning with trendy, digital-first brands that passengers love on the ground can help an airline take a step forward in the race to offer the best value in the air. However, Sakkis insists the approach isn’t right for everyone. “Each airline program is unique in its objectives and requirements; a direct-to-consumer brand might be a great fit for one airline but not for another, depending on the program.”

“From the Source,”  was originally published in the 8.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine.