British Airways is adding 'sleep pods' to its first class lounges at London Heathrow and New York JFK as the airline seeks to reclaim its premium positioning in the post-pandemic era.
The space-age cocoons, which look like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, made their debut at the Oneworld member's flagship Heathrow T5 First Lounge this week, with T5's Concorde Room and JFK's T7 first class lounge to follow when global travel restrictions ease.
At each lounge they'll feature in what BA is promoting as a ‘Forty Winks’ nap lounge.
For the Heathrow T5 First Lounge, which is currently open to all lounge-eligible travellers, the Forty Winks space replaces the old and largely unused workstation wing of the First Lounge.
This has been completed refurbished to house nine of the napping pods, which are the EnergyPod model from US firm Restworks.
Once travellers settle into the pod they can swing down the privacy screen and recline into a 'zero gravity position' which designer Restworks says "elevates the feet and reduces pressure on the cardiac system."
The seat's contour is also claimed to "relax the muscles of the lower back with a slight bend of the knees."
Each pod also has two internal compartments for stowing travel wallets, smartphones and the like.
RestWorks promotes these as 'napping pods' which come fitted with a 20-minute 'power nap' timer. At the touch of a button, a guided relaxation session or a soundtrack of specifically composed sleep music will play through internal Bose speakers.
At the end of the nap, the pod wakes its occupant "with a gentle but effective combination of light, sound, and vibration."
BA lounge staff will complement this with what's described as "a full concierge service" of hot towels and a wake-up drink.
The airline says that Dettol hand sanitiser stations will be positioned in the nap lounges, with Dettol antibacterial wipes to keep the pod surfaces clean after each use.
There's no pre-booking service at the T5 First Lounge: passengers just turn up at the Forty Winks area to see if any pods are available.
Instead, travellers can use the ‘Your Menu’ lounge app to check if a pod is available – this information is also shown on a screen outside the Forty Winks entrance.
However, when the Concorde Room's Forty Winks wing opens, its high flyers will be able book an EnergyPod through lounge hosts, request a time they would like to be woken and "choose a hot beverage to enjoy after their rest."
British Airways' premium flight path
The pods are part of British Airways' blueprint to reset its flight path as a premium airline under new CEO Sean Doyle.
"Over the course of the pandemic, we are innovating and we are doing everything we can to make sure that when the customers come back to us, we are ready and they will have a great experience," Doyle tells UK website ThisisMoney.
"BA is in talks with a range of potential partners – including interior designers, furniture designers, chefs, drinks-makers and musicians – to upgrade its airport lounges," the site says.
Those changes will accompany the continued rollout of BA's Club Suites business class across its fleet.
"From booking until landing, BA needs to feel like a premium experience," explains Tom Stevens, BA's director of brand and customer experience.
"Our strategy is to be a premium experience across the board... exciting things will start coming from June onwards."