For many of us, the words happiness and blanket together inevitably bring to mind images of the "Peanuts" character Linus clutching his favorite comfort object. Perhaps because the comic strip is an American creation, British Airways didn’t make the connection when it created its “Happiness Blanket.”
For the airline, happiness is a blue blanket, too -- but this high-tech sensation is a far cry from Linus's baby blankie.
As British Airways describes on its website, the Happiness Blanket visually reflects a passenger's mood by changing color, in real-time. Sensors in the blanket turn blue when picking up on a positive, relaxed mood and red when the passenger is feeling stressed.
The blanket doesn’t reflect feelings straight from the heart but from “tiny electrical fluctuations in the neurons of the brain” transmitted via Bluetooth from a Myndplay headband worn by the passenger. That data activates fiber optic lights intertwined with the Happiness Blanket's cashmere fibers. A relaxed brain sends signals to the blue lights, and a tense one sends signals to the red lights, as you can see in this video.
I think I’d be feeling a bit more content draped in a cashmere blanket instead of the more dubious fabrics that make up typical airline blankets. That the blankets are made of that fine fiber I learned from a British Airways representative who responded to my questions about the Happiness Blanket. In her email response, she assured me that the blankets are washable -- good to know for sanitary purposes but not really a concern since British Airways isn't using the Happiness Blanket on a regular basis.
Despite the hoopla surrounding the blankets, British Airways never intended them to become a fixture on flights but rather to be used on a limited basis to test how passengers responded to in-flight service improvements, the spokeswoman told me. In fact, only seven volunteers got the Happiness Blanket experience, as they flew on the BA189 Dreamliner from London to New York.
"The creative technologist and the BA team on the flight reviewed how the blankets changed color through different parts of the flight -- e.g. meal time, watching entertainment, sleeping," the spokeswoman said. The blanket responses showed British Airways that passengers responded positively to the amenities it designed for a more pleasant and relaxing trip.
"This is the first time this technology has been used by any airline to help shape how service is delivered on board an aircraft," said Frank van der Post, British Airways' managing director for brands and customer experience, in an official press statement.
In its Happiness Blanket experiment, British Airways confirmed that good in-flight food (which it calls Height Cuisine), enhanced entertainment with individual touchscreens offering 75% more viewing content, and cabins designed for improved passenger sleep help improve a passenger's mood and sense of well-being.
As for myself, I’d find it a bit more difficult to relax while wearing a headband and blanket that broadcasts my state of mind to the world. But I'm certain the volunteers didn't mind. They probably find happiness in sharing, as well as in a warm blanket.
Ariella I think this is awesome it is great to see that airlines still care about the inflight experience which in m opinion has deteriorated to its worst in history. Higher fares are brining less service and more fees added on. It will be interesting to see what changed they are making in the future based on the research, it's like a focus group in the sky! BTW I can tell them how I feel about airlines charging for blankets and reducing frequent flyer miles anytime they would like!
@PC yes, I thought the same. As British Airways was aware, referring to a happiness blanket is a great way to generate publicity for improvements -- even if it isn't the most effective way for measuring their impact objectively.
@Louis very true. She shouldn't have made the man feel upset in the first place. And once he tweeted about it -- with no threats even implied -- she had no right to demand he take it down. The whole thing was utterly mishandled. What did she think: that forcing him to remove the tweet before boarding would keep her job secure? On the contrary, she upset him even more, so what may have just been an annoyed tweet now is national news.
@Ariella Couldn't agree more, the attendant surly must be a member of the generation that believes everyone reads tweets. I sure hope she gets some more training in customer conflct resolution - and even though some customers might be unreasonable - the old adage "the customer is always right" still holds true.
A little better understanding of the general principles of business would go a long way.
@Louis I heard on the radio this morning that they sent him 3 $50 vouches, I suppose one for him and one for each of the kids who were with him. I think that is getting off too cheap, really. The attendant needs some training in manners and in how to diffuse a tense situation.
@Ariella Thanks for the link. I had heard a little about this story yesterday but didn't know the details. Oh boy ! I thought tweets were protected under Freedom of Speech ? Maybe SouthWest should post it ( the Constitution ) in the break room.
At least we now know the value of Free Speech, apparently according to SW it is worth a 50 dollar voucher and a belated apology. I wonder if Mr. Branson knows about this ? Probably does now.
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2014 VA Interactive Roadshow -- DetroitThe 2014 VA Interactive Roadshow will feature SAS® Data Management and SAS® Visual Analytics experts covering topics like prepping data for VA and VA integration with SAS® Office Analytics. This year's events will keep presentations at a minimum and focus on giving attendees hands-on exposure to the latest version of VA.
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