Over the past year, the airline industry has proven that dreams can come true on-board with a blaze of beautiful bedding brands, ignited by United Airlines leading from the front with Saks Fifth Avenue. As a result, we have seen Casper join forces with American Airlines, Sheridan with Qantas, and now the promise of another sleep partnership on the horizon as Qatar Airways concludes its most recent tender. With wellness, meditation and sleep at the forefront of millennial buying power, it is no surprise that airlines, brands and suppliers alike have capitalised upon such an opportunity.
Nevertheless, despite being whole heartedly committed to their customer satisfaction, it seems to me that airlines have managed to patch up a downfall in the industry by simply masking it with shiny brands once again. Don’t get me wrong, being gifted with a plush pillow or blanket from any one of those brands would be a delight, but the devils advocate in me has to ask, when you take away the face value of the brand, what are you left with? What is so different and innovative about their sleep comfort products that make them the cream of the crop?
The Industry have neglected the advice given by Doctor Russell Foster, Dr of Sleep at Oxford University from our Summer 2017 issue, ‘Sleepless In The Skies,’ and perhaps his words would do well to be repeated. Dr Foster specifically emphasized that, ‘Ultimately, airlines need to truly understand and genuinely address passengers’ number one concern – not just through brand partnerships, but rather a robust and scientifically proven set of practices.’
‘Of robust and scientifically proven set of practices’, it’s fair to say, the industry has been more than lacking, with very few frontrunners innovating sleep products for the on-board market. The most prominent of these being Matrix, who initially introduced Dr Russell Foster to the world of amenities. The development of their hydra active pajamas ‘infused with patented technology from Celessence, microcapsules of nature’s purest, most efficient moisturisers and skin conditioners,’ has been a great success on-board Emirates, actively tackling hydration during sleep. It’s fair to say, Matrix are undoubtedly committed to giving airlines solutions to sleep as they also introduced Spacemasks.com products to the industry at last year’s WTCE , who I am astounded, are yet to go on-board.
However, as a whole, when I plough through the internet, press releases and my memory of exbos and shows, my mind keeps coming up blank. Where are the other sleep innovations tackling the important elements of good sleep; sight, sound and smell. And before you say it, noise cancelling headphones and eyemasks are hardly new on-board. Perhaps its time for the industry to, dare I say, think more laterally rather than literally.
If you’re a millennial through and through and suffer with a full nights sleep like myself, you would’ve perhaps heard of the Lumie Lamp. There are multiple variations of this sought after product that uses light therapy to simulate a natural sunset and sunrise. Some also use aromatherapy combining different scents for sleep and wake-up to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Now realistically airlines cant afford to gift every passenger with a Lumie lamp, but could this technology be incorporated into some sort of eyemask that does more than just block out the buzzing lights of the cabin? Why aren’t airlines and suppliers alike thinking more outside the box when it comes to long-haul flights and sleep comfort brand partnerships?
Sleep comfort is subjective to an individuals preconceived ideas of what it means to be comfortable and upbringing and cultural background are the biggest influencers of this. During my research, I caught up with the creators of Octaspring, who have won multiple awards including a crystal cabin Award in 2017 and an Apex Award for Passenger Comfort Innovation for their new aerospace technology innovation in aircraft seat cushions. They also use their Octaspring technology for their Dormeo branch which specialises in mattresses keen to stress that ‘Sleep is Personal’ and that ‘Comfort is not just about how soft or firm a mattress is, but also about how the structure of the mattress supports your body.’ In the current climate of the airline industry, it’s impossible that one single bedding offering onboard will be the perfect combination for everyone therefore, until the year 3000 when airlines will be able to afford personalised mattresses for their guests, its imperative that they invest in the sleep amenities themselves, as there is no such thing as subjectivity when it comes to the science of sleep and the senses.
The fluidity of travel has altered the way the world looks at flying. Once an adventure, it is now something that is a necessity that gets us from A & B, and for most business professionals a normal part of their everyday lives. This is not a branding boycott by any means and passengers will always appreciate luxury bedding set offerings on-board, however if all airlines are offering a different variation of the same thing it doesn’t necessarily mean I am going to stay loyal to one specific airline when I can experience a whole host of comfort brands. What will capture my attention, what will make me want to fly with you again is the product that actually rejuvenates me for my imporatant meeting at the other end of a long flight.
by Lily-Fleur Bradbury