Dr. Carmona said the personalization of in-flight wellness raised a question. “How can we democratize air travel?” he asked. “How can we make sure passengers in economy get the same wellness amenities as those in higher classes of seating?”
One answer, he said, might involve exploring how to make use of new genetic findings.
“If we could identify genes that code for circadian dysrhythmia, we could make dietary and environmental recommendations on a passenger-by-passenger basis,” he said, adding, “Five to 10 years from now, we may be able to use people’s genomic footprint — their DNA profile — to improve not only their flight but their lives.”
Professor Simpson said his team at the Perkins Center was taking a cross-disciplinary approach for Qantas, building a wellness program on four pillars: cardio-metabolic health, sleep, immune functions, and cognition and mood. He is working with circadian biologists, sleep physicians, biochemical engineers, immunologists and researchers who study cognitive behavior.
The Perkins Center is examining data collected from medical-grade monitors that Qantas attached to travelers that recorded their sleep, activity and posture in flight. A second phase of that study is underway.
The medical team working for Air France, directed by the airline’s medical aviation physician, Dr. Vincent Feuillie, has focused on offsetting the anxieties associated with air travel. Philippe Goeury, a psychologist for Air France, cited a long list of stress-inducing conditions, including “drastic security rules and longer lines, air traffic congestion, more waiting time in the airports before boarding, more and more people sharing less and less space in the economy seating environment.”
“Stress exacerbates existing conditions and can lead to multiple comorbidities,” so that one condition aggravates another, Dr. Goeury said.
Drawing on a survey that Dr. Goeury conducted involving more than 1,500 Air France passengers who took its fear of flying course, “Taming the Plane,” the airline now offers a meditation program in partnership with Mind, an app on the airline’s entertainment screens.