British Airways recently announced the retirement of its Elemis spas, one of the crowning unique features of their Heathrow lounges. Taking their place and replacing the older business centres – in a bid to offer something to passengers – is the new ’Forty Winks’ nap lounge, featuring power nap sleep pods.
The new pods are currently available in British Airways’ First Lounge at London Heathrow. The airline will then be adding these sleep pods to its Concorde Room at London Heathrow Terminal 5 and New York’s JFK Terminal 7 when global travel restrictions ease and those lounges open.
The EnergyPod is the world’s first chair designed exclusively for power napping. With its unique combination of gravity neutral positioning and privacy visor, the EnergyPod is the premiere nap pod for short rest in the workplace. By providing nap pods for rest in its First and Concorde lounges, British Airways is “supporting customer wellbeing and helping beat jetlag while on the move”.
“The Heathrow First Class ‘Forty Winks’ lounge is complimentary and operates on a self-service basis so customers do not need to pre-book. There are seven pods available and customers can use the ‘Your Menu’ lounge app to check if a pod is available in real time. This information will also be available on a screen outside the Forty Winks entrance. As part of the airline’s ongoing commitment to keep customers and colleagues safe, Dettol hand sanitiser stations will be positioned in the nap lounges, and Dettol antibacterial wipes will be used to keep the pod surfaces clean after each use,” states the airline’s press release.
However, we can’t help but feel somewhat deflated by what appears like a clear afterthought. Naturally the airline will want to remove a clear direct cost after the past year, even though it was seen as a valuable benefit to customers – it was nearly impossible to ever book in a treatment because it was always full – showcasing its success.
This goes against the grain of BA’s new CEOs messaging of putting more back in to the airline, it’s decided to take a bold decision in removing such a perk, replacing it with what looks like something that would be found in the main terminal areas. When comparing this offering to the true private rooms with real beds that the likes of Turkish, Qatar, Lufthansa etc offer, this incarnation doesn’t quite hit the mark.
It may signal a trial before investing in a real refitted space, using this more affordable approach to build on learnings, but it’s difficult to believe that these pods were truly on the top of list of most wanted additions to the lounge (even though that’s what their research apparently states), instead of true cabana style rooms, and whether people would have suggested these at the expense of the spa area, is another story entirely.
By doing so, British Airways may have scored an own goal. Virgin Atlantic has now actually increased its lead on British Airways’ offering at Heathrow, with a spa (albeit pay-for), hairdressers, and a full service tendered bar and a-la-carte restaurant style service. As long as Virgin keeps putting the passenger first, could we see the ‘premium leisure traveller’ – who will lead the charge in returning to the skies – switch terminals and airline to enjoy a better ground experience?