Armchair travel has never been taken so literally before. For the cost of a cheap, really cheap, airline ticket you can now jet around the world, in first class, and never leave the ground. Brought to you by First Airlines, which is being described as the ‘world’s first virtual airline’, the service comes in two distinct ‘flavours’:
- Business class, which seats four people
- First class, which seats eight people
Virtual passengers are given an official boarding pass and everything else that can be expected from a physical flight, including:
- The “highest grade” four course in flight meal
- A team of flight attendants
- In-flight announcements
- Safety demonstrations
- Engine noise / radio chatter
Passengers can be seated in mockups of either an A380 or A340 aircraft, complete with actual seats. Once they have arrived at their virtual destination, passengers are able to take a 360 degree virtual tour of a particular city, depending on the experience that they have chosen.
For example, current packages allow for the following cities to be ‘visited’ and explored through the VR equipment worn by the passenger:
- New York
Based in Ikebukuro, an entertainment and commercial district in Tokyo, First Airlines seem to have cornered this particular market. It’s easy to see the entertainment value of this offering, especially with the mixture of physical and virtual elements that are included.
Prices are fairly reasonable too when the experience as a whole is considered. Business class tickets, for example, are priced at £33 while first class is £40. Interested? Virtual reality flights are taking bookings through April.
Other virtual experiences
First Airlines may be the first of their kind, but they are not alone in taking advantage of imaging mapping and virtual reality tours. In November 2017, the gallery Tate Modern unveiled a virtual tour through a digital recreation of Amedeo Modigliani’s studio, made possible by way of a VR headset that was made available.
Royal Caribbean International also had their own offering, with a virtual, ‘high sensory’ dining experience that is to be introduced to all of their vessels and is said to be the first of its kind at sea.
The experience is a combination of virtual and augmented reality elements, that allows for a unique experience. Passengers are able to be transported to distant lands, a beautiful Japanese garden in the case of the showcased scene, where they can consume a glowing blue ball (virtually, of course).
To heighten the experience, the passenger will actually be picking up a savoury canape in the real world while their virtual selves are grabbing the blue ball. According to the company, the idea is to enhance the taste of the food.
As these kinds of experiences begin to be developed, improved upon and added to we can expect them to become much more widespread.