Air travel is anxiety-inducing. Just ask journalist Sarah Lyall who flew economy on 11 domestic flights over eight days last year: "How did air travel, which once seemed so glamorous and exciting, turn into a sadomasochistic pas de deux between the industry and the passenger?"
Cue that scary video of the United passenger being dragged of the plane.
Passengers are stressed out about flying, and rightfully so. With so much bad press swirling, there's little most airlines can do to prove to us that flying's not that bad. So they're trying a different approach: meditation.
Deep breaths and blue skies
To prove they're listening to disgruntled passengers, United, Delta and JetBlue are offering a way to help you chill out and destress. They've partnered with Headspace to offer guided medications you can follow on the plane.
These guided meditations are part of the airlines' in-flight entertainment. Depending on the flight and airline, this may be available on the seatback in front of you or via the airline's entertainment app, which you can download free on your own phone or tablet.
Headspace is a meditation app that launched in 2010 featuring guided meditations from the soothing voice of Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk. It's one of the most popular mindfulness apps in Apple's App Store, offering short meditations to address any ail. There are Headspace tracks for work, kids, sleep, focus, stress and anxiety.
Now there's meditation for air travel. "We created an in-flight Headspace channel and audio exercises to help passengers relax, get some sleep, and learn a new skill for life," their website explains. According to Headspace, their "meditations in the sky" now reach over 750 million passengers each year.
De-stress on your next flight
Here's what I could find about the in-flight Headspace meditations each airline offers:
JetBlue: The New York Times reports that "JetBlue's Headspace content includes videos that address travel topics, such as fear of flying and difficulty sleeping upright."
Delta: The airline offers Headspace through Delta Studio, its free in-flight entertainment. "Tune into a variety of content geared towards air travel, including ways to help calm anxious fliers and conquer jet lag," Delta says.
United: All passengers get access to guided meditation sessions from Headspace. A United press release said business class passengers also get a "unique channel for customers on its inflight entertainment system focused on sleep and relaxation."
Headspace is also on board Air Canada, British Airways and Cathay Pacific.
Air travel means long TSA lines, subpar airport food and vultures competing for outlets in the terminal. Fingers crossed your flight isn't oversold. If you're lucky, you might get a measly snack.
Will meditation make the experience that much better? I wouldn't exactly say meditation makes it possible to kick back and relax -- that's virtually impossible as economy seats only recline a few inches. But at the very least, it might make your next flight a bit more bearable.