SINGAPORE - British Airways has begun experimenting with a hi-tech blanket to monitor passengers' sleeping patterns.
Called the 'happiness blanket', it uses neuro-sensors to measure a person's brainwaves. It changes colour accordingly, from red to blue, to show when a person is most relaxed and meditative.
The airline hopes that by monitoring a person's sleep and relaxation patterns during a flight, it 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.
"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."
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.
With results from the hi-tech blanket experiment, British Airways is looking to adapt its menu to serve light and refreshing in-flight dining to aid sleep and relaxation.