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10 innovations that differentiate sleeping aboard the best airlines

Every self-respecting airline offers flat beds in premium classes - keeping passengers blissfully asleep is a whole different ball game.

01: HOTEL-QUALITY BEDDING

Airlines from Delta to Qatar are collaborating with experts such as Westin and Frette to bring high thread count linens, memory foam pillows and fluffy duvets on board. On Japan Airlines, you can even choose the firmness of your mattress pad. Complimentary pyjamas complete the hotel experience.

02: SLEEPING WITH YOUR PARTNER

Singapore introduced double beds in first class back in 2006, on its Airbus A380 suites. This year, it joins Qatar in rolling out joint accommodation for two in business class. Availability is limited, though. The former offers plus-sized mattresses for just three bulkhead centre rows on freshly delivered “whale jets”, while the latter has them in alternating centre rows in its new Boeing 777-300ERs.

03: DINE ON DEMAND

Frequent travellers criss-crossing the globe do not need breakfast when it is midnight in their home time zone. Which is why various airlines are doing away with fixed meal services, allowing passengers to sleep when their circadian rhythm dictates, and eat when their tummy growls. The best carriers offer all-day menu options that span breakfast, lunch and dinner – plus snacks.

04: GATE-TO-GATE RECLINE

Having to put your seat upright during take-off and landing eats into precious sleep, especially on those not-here, not-there medium-haul redeye flights. Qantas, which flies a significant number of 6- to 7-hour routes into and out of Australia, created a special seatbelt that keeps passengers snug when reclined outside of cruising altitude. Now, you can catch your Zs the moment you step onto the plane.

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05: ENCLOSED SEATS

Another previous first class feature has filtered down to business: doors. On Delta’s new Airbus A350s and Qatar’s latest Boeing 777-300ERs, seats are enclosed to shield you from light and noise, providing a private cocoon to change into your pyjamas and snooze to your heart’s content.

06: MOOD LIGHTING

Studies have shown that “colour temperature” – that is, how cool (bluish) or warm (reddish) the ambient light is – has a profound eff ect on the circadian rhythm. Cabin mood lighting helps trick the brain into adjusting to new time zones. Emirates goes further by embedding “stars” in the ceiling, while Icelandair projects the aurora borealis on one of its planes.

07: HUMIDIFIERS

If chapped lips and a sore throat keep you awake, pick a newer generation aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or the Airbus A350. Composite materials used in such planes allow for higher cabin humidity. But if that’s not enough, Lufthansa has installed humidifiers in first class to dial up the moisture level even higher.

08: QUIET AREAS

Sometimes low-tech solutions are often the most effective. Virgin Atlantic offers snooze zones to seat passengers intending to skip the roast beef and champagne to catch their forty winks. If they wake up hungry, nourishment is offered at the on-board bar to maintain the silence. The crew are even trained by “whisper coaches” to speak at low but audible volumes.

09: SPA TREATMENT

Suffering from insomnia? Skip the Xanax and try some aromatherapy. Etihad’s amenity kit contains some non-medical sleep aids, like a pillow mist and pulse point oil formulated in collaboration with a panel of sleep experts from the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi, that will ease you into deep slumber.

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10: ON-BOARD SHOWERS

Not just an indulgent luxury, a quick wash of the body helps put you in the mood for sleep, or create a fresh start in the morning. Currently a first-class-only perk, such facilities can be found on Airbus A380 aircraft flown by Emirates and Etihad.