BA hopes slow TV can make air time fly by

British Airways new Airbus A380 aircraft.
Source: British Airways
British Airways new Airbus A380 aircraft.

Settle into the window seat, insert ear plugs and take off your shoes.

Now fliers on British Airways have a new tactic to combat sleeplessness on long-haul journeys – footage of a seven-hour train journey through southern Norway.

The "slow TV" program will soon be added to BA's on-board entertainment package, after the airline deemed it the type of content that passengers would find "mesmerizing".

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The show, which tracks every minute of the journey from Bergen to Oslo, attracted over 1m viewers when it first aired in Norway five years ago, despite competition from the local version of The X Factor.

"A lot of people found it very hypnotic," said Rune Møklebust, head of programming at NRK, the Norwegian public broadcaster that commissioned the show. "They watched a lot more than they planned."

One viewer was reportedly so immersed in the train experience that he stood up to retrieve his suitcase from the overhead rack, only to fall into his living room curtain.

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BA will include the program from July on those planes with Thales electronics, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the trouble-prone jet whose design is itself supposed to help passengers relax.

However, the program may also bring home an uncomfortable truth for the airline. Taking the train from Bergen to Oslo is actually quicker than flying the same route via British Airways, whose itinerary via London Heathrow takes up to 11 hours.

Producers at NRK came up with the concept of slow TV after making documentaries about the Norwegian railways. The Bergen-Oslo program cost about NKr200,000 Kroner (£19,000) to produce, making it cheaper than even reality TV shows.

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Featuring placid fiords and snow-capped mountains, it is a far cry from the grisly Scandinavian thrillers to have emerged from other Nordic countries in recent years.

The biggest twist comes in the last tunnel, when a signal failure delays the train by 10 minutes – a possible reminder to BA passengers of one advantage of air travel.

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NRK has since expanded the slow TV genre, broadcasting 100 hours of chess games with grandmaster Magnus Carlsen and eight hours of wool being shorn from sheep and knitted into a sweater.

The train journey was initially intended not to relax viewers, but to engage them in the story of the route. Asked whether he would be offended if fliers were to fall asleep in front on the program, however, NRK's Mr Møklebust replied: "No, not at all."