British Airways Can Read Your Mind

Introduces "Happiness Blankets" to monitor passengers' brainwaves

"Sit back, relax, and if you don't have a pleasant flight, we'll know." (Courtesy of Nick Morrish/British Airways)
Photo: Courtesy of Nick Morrish/British Airways british airways happiness blanket neurosensors mood ring fiber optics fiber optic fabric jet lag circadian rhythm transatlantic flight dreamliner outside online outside magazine outside

Most airlines seek out socially intuitive employees, but just in case, British Airways stewards have a new tool on board as of last week. To ensure that no patron is unnecessarily roused from slumber to choose between coffee and tomato juice, the airline introduced "happiness blankets," the textile equivalent of mood rings, into its cabins.

Patrons wear their emotions on their sleeves while draped in blankets that contain a network of fiber optics. The fibers receive information via Bluetooth from headsets embedded with neurosensors. As activity in a patron’s brainwaves increases and decreases, the fiber optics light up red and blue to indicate tension and relaxation, respectively.

British Airways hopes the blankets eventually will elicit crunchable data that helps its teams elevate every aspect of the experience. Right now, the airline is only concerned with monitoring whether you've had a pleasant flight and is not reacting to the data.

"Using technology like the 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, and their position in the seat," British Airways managing director of brands and customer experience Frank van de Post said in a press release

British Airways has been concerned with sleep quality for a while; it was the first airline to introduce flat beds in business class. The blanket informants will only work insofar as passengers can be persuaded to wear them. Recognizing that they look like leftovers from a 1980's Sky Mall catalog, British Airways gave blankets to passengers on a London to New York City flight to prove they work. Here's what they (allegedly) found:

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