Meet the VR companies offering flights to nowhere

Would you pay money to eat airline food on the ground right now?
Would you pay money to eat airline food on the ground right now?
Photo: Biggie Productions (Getty Images)

Just last week I wrote about how some airlines—and one South Korean convenience store—have been selling airline food to people desperate to recreate one of the least interesting and most (literally) gut-wrenching aspects of flying. Apparently that was just the tip of the iceberg, though: according to The Washington Post, people are paying money to sit in a replica airplane cabin in order to take virtual reality flights to nowhere.


Per the Post, the Japanese company First Airlines was ahead of the curve when it first started offering this new form of non-transportation in 2017. The experience gives the participant a “flight” to destinations like New York, Rome, Helsinki, and New Zealand, and includes VR on-the-ground tours. All things considered, it’s both remarkably cheap and impressively detailed:

“The First Airlines experience channels all the minute details of flying, from departures screens in the lounge to flight attendants carrying out safety protocols. And the two-hour virtual reality experience, complete with a four-course meal and window TV screens replicating exterior views, is cheaper than an actual first-class plane ticket at about $62, or 6,580 yen.”

As a relatively frequent traveler myself, and someone who had almost an entire year’s worth of work-and-leisure travel abruptly canceled at the start of March, I completely understand the desire to get back out there. I also understand, and still experience, the anticipation and jittery joy that comes with getting ready for a trip, getting on a plane, and being transported to somewhere different and potentially new. But, at least for me, the actual process of sitting on an airplane, being given a meal (even if it’s a good one), and listening to the safety procedures lecture is the least compelling part of the experience.

Then again, I might be in the minority here. As the Post points out, in an interview with Reuters, First Airlines said its bookings are up by 50% and that advance reservations are now required. Plus, Taiwanese airline EVA Air recently offered an actual flight to nowhere on its “Hello Kitty Dream Jet, which took off locally, putzed around in the air for a while, and then came back down.

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)


Lurch of the SoCal

Not that surprised honestly.

Netflix has had transit videos for years. I used to run the multi-hour European rail videos as a way to keep an especially pesky visitor from switching the television on and over to loud racing shows the moment he walked in the door.

Rather relaxing in more than just the “I don’t have to listen to a bunch of backwoods types arguing over why they don’t actually have to race on a racing show” angle. Seriously, that seemed to be all they do from what he watched - I tried accommodating at first. A four hour front window view of northern Europe was positively uplifting by comparison.