Expert insight

The airlines turning to customer wellness

18 February 2019

Airlines are waking up to the importance of innovations to in-flight comfort with rejuvenating wellness initiatives and proactive traveller solutions.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia took to the skies last autumn with the world’s first dedicated meditation flight, in partnership with app-based mindfulness platform Smiling Mind.

The app, which has also been added to Virgin Australia’s in-flight entertainment system, is also designed to encourage people to use some of their time on board the aircraft to practice meditation.

The airline’s co-founder and British businessman Richard Branson, who admits he has only recently been introduced to mindfulness techniques, believes “integrating meditation into our everyday lives is just as important as eating well and exercising regularly”. He adds: “I am so excited Virgin Australia is deeply embedding mindfulness into the workplace and on board flights.”

The airline has also announced a new way for anxious travellers to access support prior to travelling to make their experience less stressful. From this year nervous flyers can discreetly self-identify with the airline by ticking a box while booking a flight. This will lead to personalised communications ahead of their journey, and face-to-face interactions with cabin crew on board.

Matt Holman, Head of Traveller Experience, said, ‘This is a wonderful approach by an airline to provide proactive solutions for travellers to use prior and during their trip.  As stress is one of the greatest wellness challenges that travellers face, anything we can do to help give better support will only have a positive impact. This is also a great example of how we can use the current systems to promote improved wellbeing.’


Lufthansa are also committed to ensuring passengers feel rested after flights and have invited some familiar faces to deliver in-flight wellbeing.

In a series of new ‘flyrobic’ videos, passengers will receive practical tips and advice from senior first team players from Bayern Munich football club, plus a range of exercises developed together with the Lufthansa Medical Service.

The likes of Thomas Müller loosens up his legs, Jérôme Boateng rotates his shoulders, Rafinha involves his team mate Juan Bernat in back extensions and Javi Martínez slowly turns his head from side to side to demonstrate how these simple fitness sessions can be carried out on board.

‘For many years airlines have been promoting onboard exercise, but having this as part of the video library and giving a branding of ‘flyrobic’ will hopefully encourage people to take more action.’ Matt Holman, Head of Traveller Experience,

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines and premiere integrative wellness brand Canyon Ranch are now working together to re-invent ultra-long-haul travel with a focus on wellness cuisines, rest and relaxation, and general wellbeing on the world’s longest commercial flights. 

The programme is specifically aimed at their 18 hour 45 minutes non-stop service between Singapore and New York but will also extend to their non-stop services to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

With guidance from Canyon Ranch Wellness Architects who have expertise in integrative medicine, exercise and nutrition, Singapore Airlines acting senior vice president of customer experience, Yeoh Phee Teik says they are “tapping into science-based recommendations and strategies to deliver an even more comfortable journey” for its passengers.

The multi-discipline approach includes sleep strategies designed to help customers in all cabin classes to improve the duration and quality of rest, as well as specific light settings for a better ambience for rest and relaxation. It also offers a menu crafted by Canyon Ranch chefs that is focused on nutrition and hydration and takes into consideration longer flight duration with less body movement.

Matt Holman, Head of Traveller Experience, comments, ‘Taking a position to address multiple elements of travel wellbeing is a very positive approach by Singapore Airlines.  It is a fact that the longer the flying time, the more challenging it is to remain healthy, mentally and physically well.  For Business Travellers it is very important to arrive at your destination and take the least amount of time to prepare for business. Often travellers have very little time to acclimatize to their destination before having to go into business mode.’

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines operates a Fly Good Feel Good campaign to address steps that can be taken before, during and after a flight in order to ensure passengers arrive at their final destination feeling relaxed.

With the scheme set to expand in the coming months, nine informative videos have been created offering expert guidance on topics such as, in-flight nutrition, flying during pregnancy and means to alleviate effects of jetlag, and all are accessed via Turkish Airlines’ in-flight entertainment systems.

The Fly Good Feel Good initiative also includes a menu of herbal teas with rooibos, sage and lavender to help relieve stress and promote sleep. Interestingly, the wellness of the airline’s youngest passengers is also taken care of. Children are offered a traditional Turkish drink with milk, carob powder and date syrup that is recommended to strengthen bones.

Matt Holman, Head of Traveller Experience, comments, ‘It is great to see an airline looking at the flying experience as a wellness journey that does not just include the time in the sky.  The more we can do to promote positive wellness both before and after the trip, the better the experience is likely to be for the traveller.’

United Airlines

All United Airlines passengers can access the popular digital meditation service Headspace as part of their in-flight entertainment offering.

The in-flight Headspace channel and audio exercises have been developed to help passengers relax, get some sleep, and learn a new skill for life. These meditation techniques now reach over 800 million passengers a year across 11 airlines including United Airlines, British Airways and Swiss Air.

There are also video resources available that will help to address popular travel topics such as coping with a fear of flying and difficulty sleeping upright.

There are more than 2000 meditation apps on the market but Headspace claim to be the one of few genuinely committed to advancing the field of mindfulness meditation through clinically-validated research – as this includes inflight wellbeing, too.

‘The growth of the mindfulness app market has been significant over the past 5 years. According to the report, the percentage of Americans who meditate grew to 14.3 percent in 2017, up from 4.1 percent in 2012. This makes meditation the fastest-growing wellness activity in the U.S., according to the report.  Airlines are recognising how the time available for travellers can be used to improve wellbeing, and the use of in-flight Headspace gives any addition option to the traditional entertainment choices.’ Matt Holman, Head of Traveller Experience.