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Luxury Travel

Why It's Getting Easier to Sleep on Planes

Five ways that airlines are rolling out the red carpet—and custom duvets—for weary travelers.

For every inch of lost legroom in the back of the plane, there seems to be one new amenity in the front. A disproportionate number of these new offerings are promising to give you the single thing that’s most elusive at 35,000 feet: a good night’s sleep. Here, a snapshot at the most relaxing new perks in the skies—mostly in business and first class; sorry, coach—including a few that might warrant leaving the melatonin at home.  


Custom Bedding


United's new bedding collection, made in collaboration with Saks Fifth Avenue.

Source: United Airlines

It all started with Delta and the Westin Heavenly bed—the first big effort to improve sky-high sleeping habits back in 2013. Three years later, United is upping the ante. The airline has just announced its new Polaris business cabins, which will begin rolling out this December. One of its major draws is custom bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue (think ultra-soft duvets, pillows, and mattress cushions). Similarly, the Scandinavian carrier SAS has recently introduced Hästens brand bedding on premium seats. Perhaps the cleverest amenity, though, can be found on Etihad. No matter where on the plane you sit, the brand provides pillows that convert from standard size to neck pillows, along with eye masks that bear the words, "Do not disturb" or "Wake me for meals."   




Oils you can apply to pulse points are among this new wave of airline offerings.

Photographer: vladislav popov/Getty Images/Flickr Flash

Etihad's pillow sprays and pulse-point oils, courtesy of Le Labo, were first to market two years ago; now the trend is going viral. Travelers on late night flights with Virgin Atlantic can spritz themselves with High Altitude, a blend of fragonia, eucalyptus, and lavender to fall asleep easily, while United is offering lavender-infused pillow spray from the U.K.-based, Soho House-affiliated Cowshed Spa.    


Dinner and a Nightcap—When You Want It

A cabin attendant demonstrates to serve an in-flight meal with freshly cooked rice for new service "Inspiration of Japan" at the business class seat as Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) unveils its latest airplane Boeing 777-300ER at a hanger of the New Tokyo International Airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, April 16, 2010.  The jetliner will go into the service on April 19 between Narita and New York. Photographer: Kimimasa Mayama/Bloomberg

In-flight meals are (almost) never worth waking up for.

Photographer: Kimimsa Mayama/Bloomberg

This spring, Air France wised up to the fact that few travelers want to be awakened for dinner service at midnight on an overnight flight. The solution: Let premium passengers take their meals in the business-class lounge before boarding. (The service is available only in New York's JFK for now.) The concept is taking off: British Airways’ Club World Sleeper Service, for instance, lets passengers order meals ahead of their flight departure and enjoy a nightcap on boarding instead.


Mood Lighting

Interior view of 787 entry with arch and ceiling. K64262-03

Mood lighting on a Boeing Dreamliner.

Photographer: Alan W. Abramowitz/Boeing

Anyone flying on a new Boeing Dreamliner or the forthcoming Airbus A330neo will benefit from mood lighting that’s specifically designed to regulate their circadian rhythm. Alternate cool and warm lighting schemes help passengers fall asleep more easily and wake up feeling refreshed—jet lag be damned. By the time the A330neo is launched next year, nearly every major carrier will be on board with the technology.


Relaxation Videos


A suite of meditation videos from Headspace, including one that helps you sleep.

Source: Headspace

Before you scoff at your airline’s in-flight entertainment, consider that meditation programming is increasingly popular—it has proven effective for both jittery and restless fliers. Virgin Atlantic has a video series that borrows from Andy Puddicombe’s popular meditation app, Headspace; Delta’s just-launched, 10-minute flicks are from YouTube favorite “OMG. I Can Meditate”; and British Airways has jumped in with a series from the Mindfulness Institute.

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