Singapore Airlines unveiled its latest in-flight upgrade this week: Double beds in airborne luxury suites offered by the airline. The company invested $850 million in aircraft interior upgrades that make the inside of the plane look more like an upscale hotel, CNN reported. The change is just the latest attempt from a major airline to upgrade the travel experience.
Today, when most people board an airline flight, they expect access to a shared movie and maybe reliable Wifi — but what about a blood pressure checkup, or a live theater performances. Airlines are increasingly trying to turn dead time into life-affirming and even life-saving medical examinations. They’re expanding in-flight options from small-screen movies to larger interactive entertainment and other amenities.
Virgin Atlantic hosted an in-flight comedy festival in September featuring Broad City comedian Abbi Jacobson and, in September, Icelandair created an 11-hour immersive theater production on a flight between London and New York. “Our program aims to transform wasted time while traveling into time well-traveled,” Icelandair CEO Birkir Hólm Guðnason, told NBC News. “We’re pleased to pioneer a new form of entertainment.”
To the delight of some travelers — and the horror of others — Southwest Airlines has featured live concerts for the past six years on select flights. While some have called this “in-flight assault,” Southwest said the campaign has had significant success “as Southwest passengers hope that their flight will be one of the lucky ones to feature a sure-to-go-viral performance.”
Brett Snyder, founder and author of airline industry blog The Cranky Flier, called it “a PR gimmick.” He recommends the kind of entertainment you can put on mute. “Most of what I see is still focused around personal entertainment and giving people the ability to choose, so you don’t have to bother everyone with a concert not everyone is going to like,” he said, adding that customized content through partnerships like Amazon is becoming more common.
Soon, you could have a gym at 35,000 feet. Silicon Valley company Transpose has joined with cycling company Peloton and Reebok, to create a mock airplane to envision what in-flight exercise could be in the future, featuring bikes, yoga mats and weight lifting equipment. Similar technology has been designed on private jets for professional athletes. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner boasts biometric monitoring and lie-flat seats, while the SportJet allows for fitness tests.
That technology could be coming for non-athlete travelers soon, said Torsten Wingenter, head of digital innovations at Lufthansa The German airline is actively working on offering such modules and Wingenter envisions an experience in which flight attendants trained as yoga instructors or fitness experts lead select passengers in onboard workouts.
Air travelers looking to exercise should proceed with caution. The average traveler loses up to 2 liters of water per 10 hour flight due to dehydration. However, light exercise has been shown to prevent deep vein thrombosis, a deadly condition in which blood clots form in the veins, often of legs and can create pulmonary embolism. Experts suggest knee lifts and walking around the plane every 15 to 30 minutes to reduce risks.
Appointments to improve mind and body
In-flight Wi-Fi has been used to facilitate mobile doctor’s appointments on board in the past but no airlines are currently offering a designated medical service provider for passengers. On some flights, Lufthansa offers a smart sleeping mask that monitors travelers’ brain waves to wake them up at the best times to avoid jet lag as they travel between time zones. Virgin Atlantic has mood lighting and aromatherapy on board flights to facilitate comfortable sleep for passengers.
Kari Paul is a regular contributor to ny post