SIMPLE FLYING – by Joanna Bailey (re- edited Julian Smith)

For travellers experiencing a severe case of wanderlust, a Japanese firm has come up with a novel way for passengers to enjoy a trip to an exotic location in absolute safety. For the bargain price of just $60, Japanese would-be travellers can soak up the sun in Hawaii, see the sights in Rome or take a romantic stroll down the Champs Elysees in Paris.

First Airlines is offering a novel way to see the world. Photo: First Airlines

They don’t need a COVID test, there’s no visa hassle to deal with and they can leave their luggage at home. It’s a virtual trip, but with more bells and whistles than anything you could have imagined before.

Introducing First Airlines

First Airlines describes itself as the world’s first virtual airline. Now, we’ve heard of virtual airlines before, in the sense that they sell tickets for flights on other airline’s metal. But this one is rather more ‘virtual’ in the ‘virtual reality’ sense of the word.

The company has painstakingly recreated the first class cabin of an A310, complete with the genuine seats from a retired model. Passengers board through a check-in gate and take their seats in the high-quality recliners for their trip.

The cabin has been painstakingly recreated. Photo: First Airlines

During the flight, former flight attendants supervise the activities of a team of trainee FA’s, who provide all the inflight hospitality any passenger could wish for. Travellers even get a pre-flight safety demonstration, trolley service and all the usual announcements from the cockpit.

On the way to their destination, passengers will be served a meal designed specifically for that flight. Those heading to France can enjoy smoked salmon and foie gras, for Italian flights its roast pork followed by tiramisu, while travellers to Hawaii are served soft shell shrimp and scallops.

Full inflight service is provided. Photo: First Airlines

Trips are also available to Finland, New Zealand, and New York, as well as scenic and historic journeys around Japan. The whole experience takes just two hours.

Boarding is through a luxurious gate. Photo: First Airlines

The inflight experience

As well as having flight attendants, inflight meal service and all the usual announcements, passengers can expect a real ‘take-off’ experience through the use of visuals and audio effects. During the flight, clouds whizz past the virtual windows while passengers relax.

On ‘arrival’, passengers don the latest virtual reality headsets and take an immersive virtual trip around the city of their choice. Whether its Helsinki or New York City, the passenger will be taken on a virtual 360-degree journey around the major sights, giving them the nearest thing to a real-world holiday as possible.

Passengers take a virtual tour of their chosen destination. Photo: First Airlines

OK, so it’s probably not going to really make up for not being able to jet off across the world this summer, but for those sick of lockdown, it’s a bit of harmless fun. And at a price of just $60 for a first class seat, it’s 120 minutes of pleasure including food, which we think is a bit of a bargain.

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