by Soo Kim, The Telegraph, February 21, 2018
Travel enthusiasts short on time and money can now jet-set around the world in first class in just two hours at essentially the cost of a Ryanair flight - all without ever leaving the ground.
First Airlines - the ‘world’s first virtual airline’ hub based in Ikebukuro, one of Tokyo’s commercial and entertainment districts - is taking armchair travel to new heights with the help of virtual reality (VR) technology.
Passengers on a First Airlines flight are issued with an official boarding pass and can expect the full on-board experience, complete with the “highest grade” four-course in-flight meals served by a team flight attendants, official in-flight announcements, safety demonstrations and ambient engine and radio sounds simulating the noises within an aircraft, using VR headsets within a makeshift aircraft setting.
Seated in A380 or A340 aircraft seats, fliers can experience take-off and landing as well as a 360-degree virtual city tour upon arrival at the destinations on offer, which include Paris, New York, Rome and Hawaii, through projection mapping and video features on their VR headsets.
The in-flight meals, devised by experienced “top chefs”, showcase the local cuisine of the destinations, ranging from Manhattan clam chowder featured in the New York course to salmon tartare and caviar for the French offering and Tiramisu in the Italian menu.
Keen travellers can book a journey in either business class (seating four people) or first class (seating up to eight) - teleporting a total of 12 passengers per flight.
Offered from around 4,980 yen (£33) in business class and 5,980 yen (£40) in first class, the virtual reality flights are currently available for bookings through April.
The latest venture is the first time virtual reality and other high-tech features have been used to enhance travellers’ experiences.
Last November last year, the Tate Modern showcased its first use of technology at its new Amedeo Modigliani exhibition, offering visitors an immersive virtual journey through a recreation of the artist’s studio via a VR headset.
Last year, Royal Caribbean International unveiled a “high-sensory” virtual dining experience to be launched across its fleet that combines both augmented and virtual reality, which the cruise company claimed will be the first offering of its kind at sea.
The immersive experience saw users transported to a vibrant Japanese garden upon consuming a glowing blue ball seen through the VR headset but that in reality was a savoury canapé and was designed to enhance the taste of the food, according to the company.