Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 March 2018

Flight to nowhere: Japan airline introduces VR trips without ever leaving the ground

In Japan, you can jump on a plane and take Virtual Reality trips to Paris, Rome and New York

Fasten your seatbelts for a flight departing to Paris, and never leave the ground.

That's exactly what 12 passengers did at First Airlines in central Tokyo this week, where they relaxed in first and business-class seats and were served a four-course meal, before immersing themselves in 360-degree virtual reality (VR) tours of the City of Light's sights.

"A real trip is a hassle to prepare for, and expensive, and takes time. So I think it is good that we can enjoy all this hassle-free", said Takashi Sakano, 39, who was on his first VR trip, adding that he wanted to 'travel' to Rome next time.

At 6,600 yen (Dh227), a fraction of the cost of an actual trip overseas, it's easy to see why First Airlines' two-hour "flights" to Paris, Rome, Hawaii and New York have been fully booked since the company opened in 2016.

"We have lots of elderly customers, who want to go overseas but are not able to easily, given their physical limitations", said a spokesman for the airline, explaining that the majority of First Airlines' visitors are older Japanese from around the country.

He said domestic flights around Japan will be added soon, with meals highlighting the region's cuisine.