The airline experiments with neuro-sensor technology to learn how to improve in-flight services for passengers.
Already known for being the first airline to introduce flat beds in business class, British Airways is seeking to learn more about what really helps their customers relax using what it calls a high-tech Happiness Blanket.
The device works by using brainwave sensors worn on a headset to measure fluctuations in passenger brain activity. This information is sent via Bluetooth to the blanket and visually communicated through color. The blanket, woven with fiber optics, changes color to from red to blue as the passenger reaches a more relaxed state.
The technology has recently been tested by volunteers on British Airways Dreamliner service from London to New York and is starting to reveal patterns about the moods of passengers at different points of the flight – when they enjoy a meal, watch a movie, or snag some shut-eye. It’s British Airways’ hope to use the findings in order to tweak services and improve the in-flight experience.
British Airways’ Managing Director of Brands and Customer Experience, Frank van de Post, summarized the project by saying:
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.
The initiative has already gathered support by experts in neuroscience. While minimizing distractions and lowering light is already accepted as restful, Professor of Human Brain Research Vincent Walsh at University College London is eagerly anticipating the results from the Happiness Blanket.
“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,” Walsh says.
Given how demanding a long flight can be on the body, it’s exciting to see airlines experimenting with the technology available to them to better serve travelers. It will be interesting to see what modifications in service provide the biggest opportunities – whether it’s physical design, timing of meals or encouraging a peaceful environment. Hopefully they’ll figure out a way for more of us to reach our destinations feeling refreshed.