British Airways has started trialling a hi-tech blanket – known as the ‘happiness blanket’ – which uses neuro-sensors to measure the electrical fluctuations in the neurons of passengers’ brains, and changes colour depending on their state of mind.
The aim of the trial is to monitor passengers’ sleep and relaxation patterns during a flight, with the results then to be used to identify which aspects of the onboard experience can be improved.
A group of volunteers onboard British Airways’ Dreamliner service between London Heathrow and Newark Liberty International Airport were the first to trial the blankets. They all had to wear a headband linked to the blanket, and when they were in a state of relaxation, the fibre optics woven into the blanket turned blue, and they were stressed or anxious, the fibre optics turned red.
The results of the first trial found that passengers were most relaxed when they were able to fall into deep sleep. Passengers’ moods were found to fluctuate when initially settling in to their seat, while there were variations in mood when watching movies. It also found that mood improved noticeably when enjoying food and drink.
Frank van der Post, British Airways’ Managing Director, Brands and Customer Experience, commented: “This is the first time this technology has been used by any airline to help shape how service is delivered onboard an aircraft.” He explained that the happiness blanket “is another way for us to investigate how our customers’ relaxation and sleep is affected by everything onboard, from the amount of light in the cabin, when they eat, to what in-flight entertainment they watch and their position in the seat.”
The initiative is being supported by Vincent Walsh, Professor of Human Brain Research at University College London, who explained that “flying presents the body with a unique set of challenges”. He added: “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.”
At FTE Global 2014, Kate Thornton, Head of Product and Service at British Airways, will deliver a presentation entitled: ‘BA is investing £5 billion in new products, aircraft and technology to provide the best possible flying experience for its customers. In which specific areas has it invested, and what real difference do its passengers believe it has made to their experience?’