Anyone who has travelled long haul in Economy Class knows that sleep is not easy to come by. As airlines across the globe cater to higher passenger numbers, seats are getting smaller, space is getting tighter, and the whole experience is getting more uncomfortable. However, passengers are hoping to hit the ground running at their chosen destinations, and this poses an obvious problem – how to arrive feeling your best when your travel experience has been akin to sardines in a tin can. Over the years various companies have seen this as an opportunity to bring a number of products to the market that promise to ease the discomfort and create the chance to have a peaceful, comfortable sleep at 38,000 feet. Recently more far flung contraptions have appeared, many of them looking more like torture devices than sleep aids, but do any of them actually help? Or do they promise more than they deliver?
Many regular travellers will be familiar with the inflatable neck pillow, a u-shaped, suedette covered plastic pillow that is supposed to ensure that your head and neck remain comfortable whilst sitting upright. Throughout the last decade or so there have been a number of variations on this theme, some inflating more, some being made of memory foam, and others with a variety of fabrics covering them. However, I think that there is one thing everyone can agree on – they don’t work. The traditional plastic ones make your neck sweat, and the shape does little to support your head from ‘nodding’ as you attempt to negotiate yourself into a peaceful sleep.
There have been a number of re-imaginings of this simple sleep aid, which primarily sits around the neck, and aims to support the head either at the sides or across the back. One such product is the TRTL SleepScarf – aimed at keeping the neck warm, whilst featuring a stiff insert to support the head and neck as you doze off into the land of nod.
Of the more recent inventions – the Woollip, Nodpod, FaceCradle, and the Boeing patented ‘Cuddle Chair’ – most of them continue of the theme of supporting the head and neck whilst the passenger attempts to sleep. Some, such as the NodPod, attach to the airline seat around the headrest, using the weight of the head to create a cradle to rest the chin in. Others, like the Woollip, take advantage of the fold down tray table that is a common feature on nearly every flight worldwide, allowing the passenger to use the little extra space they have in front of them to rest their weary heads on an inflatable cushion with holes for the arms and face. There has even been a more environmentally, and travel friendly, version made of cardboard entitled the PowerSiesta, which you simply take out your hand luggage, fold along the lines and place on the tray table in front of you.
Travellers are constantly searching for that Holy Grail – the promise of a peaceful, comfortable sleep whilst flying Economy Class around the world. With this in mind, there will be more ridiculous products that make their way into the market ready to promise to change the traveller’s life. However, would it not be better to take a look at what airlines are doing for their Economy Passengers? More often than not the First and Business Class passengers are gifted with an array of amenities to make their flight more comfortable, not mentioning the lie-flat beds, showers and fine dining menus that go with them. Maybe it is time for the airlines to take this opportunity to try and improve the well-being of their loyal customers, who don’t have the same expendable income as those that turn left when they get onboard.
Economy Class passengers are the ones with the least space, and therefore the most need for enhancement to their comfort. They should not have to be spending more of their hard-earned money on extra products that promise the world and deliver very little. With more people travelling than ever before, and an increased focus on mental and physical wellbeing whilst travelling, the responsibility surely falls to the airlines who need to think outside the box and start looking at ways to make their economy class passenger’s experience as comfortable as possible. And, in regards to the Boeing patented ‘Cuddle Chair’ TravelPlus Media hope that Airlines will keep us informed as they battle it out to be the first one to feature one of these contraptions onboard! Who knows, it might be the answer all Economy passengers have been waiting for!
by Hayley Ingram