British Airways has begun testing a hi-tech blanket which changes colour using brainwaves, to ensure it offers customers the best flight’s sleep in the sky.
The ‘happiness blanket’, which is woven with fibre optics, uses neuro-sensors to measure a person’s brainwaves and changes colour, from red to blue, to show when they’re at their most relaxed and meditative.
The airline hopes monitoring a person’s sleep and relaxation patterns during a flight will inform decisions made to improve aspects of the in-flight service; from changing the timing of meals, what food is served and even the types of films shown – to make flying and sleeping on British Airways flights even more relaxing.
Last week, a group of volunteers on board the BA189 Dreamliner service from Heathrow to New York, were among the first to try out the hi-tech ‘happiness blankets’ for themselves and report on their experiences.
Frank van der Post, British Airways’ managing director, brands and customer experience, said: “This is the first time this technology has been used by any airline to help shape how service is delivered on board an aircraft.
“Using technology like the British Airways ‘happiness blanket’ is another way for us to investigate how our customers’ relaxation and sleep is affected by everything on board, from the amount of light in the cabin, when they eat, to what in-flight entertainment they watch and their position in the seat.
“Having been the first airline to introduce the fully-flat bed in business class, we take our customers’ sleep and relaxation, very seriously. Now we want to ensure they get the best possible good flight’s sleep as well.”
Supporting the initiative, Vincent Walsh, professor of human brain research at University College London, said: “Sleeping on a plane is a great opportunity to reset your body clock so you arrive at your destination after a long flight, feeling refreshed and rested."
"The short transatlantic flights west give a great opportunity for naps that will refresh you for that long first evening in New York or LA."
“You can never underestimate the importance of a good sleep so I’m looking with interest at what the British Airways ‘happiness blanket’ will reveal about the traveller’s sleep and relaxation patterns during the course of a flight.
“Flying presents the body with a unique set of challenges, but getting a proper sleep on a flight isn’t rocket science. You need to ensure your brain has as few distractions as possible so that you can ease it into a different time zone.
“Lying down, making sure you have as much darkness as possible and covering your eyes from any available light source, by turning off your in-flight entertainment, phone and computer, all go a long way to helping you to sleep and fly well.”
Professor Walsh’s top tips to improve you sleep while flying:
Have a light pre-flight meal before you board
If you can, book a seat that lies fully flat or reclines as much as possible
Take off your shoes, to improve circulation
Don’t drink any alcohol and avoid anything with caffeine, such as tea, coffee or fizzy drinks
If you're awake, always take the hydration offered
If you want to sleep, try to not watch any movies, use your tablet, computer or mobile phone
Wear an eye mask and ensure any lights around you are off and the window blind is down
If you want to relax, put in ear plugs or listen to a specially made relaxation soundtrack, such as specially produced podcasts by British Airways
Listen to your body. Sleep is not a waste of time
If sleeping pills help you, only use them at bed time in New York, if you’re flying from London to New York. Whereas if you’re flying from London to Beijing, take the pills at Beijing bed time, while you’re on board the flight If you fly often make a habit of these things. Sleep hygiene is a habit.
British Airways already features special in-flight podcasts to encourage customers to relax and de-stress during their flight.
Last week it also announced the introduction of ‘Slow TV’ programming on board a number of its long-haul flights. The ‘wallpaper’ style footage, which features a seven hour train journey through Norway, introduces a hypnotic quality for some viewers.
British Airways features more than 130 movies, 650 TV shows from around the world and some 550 audio albums and 225 radio shows in its in-flight entertainment systems.
Research by Kantar Media for British Airways, has found that customers start their journey in a stage of ‘nesting’ which involves planning their in-flight entertainment schedule and getting comfortable in their surroundings.
After food and drink has been served they enter the next stage of ‘me time’ used indulgently to watch films, catch up on box-sets, or possibly doing work. The final stage of ‘adjustment’ see’s the customer preparing for the new destination, this is the peak time for looking at the moving map, as well as getting changed and refreshing for the onward journey.
The seven stages of emotions a flier will go through were identified by Ipsos MORI as; enjoyment, conviviality, belonging, security, control, empowerment and vitality.
As well as providing pre-flight dining in many of its airport lounges, British Airways also looks to serve light and refreshing in-flight dining to aid sleep and relaxation.