Many air travel service designers are touting the importance of keeping passengers entertained on long flights. Because as more of us go straight to the bottom line, airlines have to work harder to stand out. However, there’s not a whole lot you can do to keep sitting people entertained. Movies, meals and Wi-Fi are the usual offers. But now it seems some airlines are upping their game. On of these is Alaska Airlines which will be offering VR inflight entertainment in first class in the coming year. So is this a boost or a gimmick – let’s see.
Alaska Airlines VR entertainment
Coming across this story, the first question I had was, is it true VR? Actually, no. It’s a product called Cinematic VR. With true VR you have some haptic elements and you can interact with the environment. You can move around and grasp things. With Cinematic VR, you can turn your head and get a realistic visual of the same movement. By the way, can you imagine a cabin full of First Class passengers bumping into each other in the aisles and grabbing things? Probably not a great idea.
So, Alaska Airlines are offering a Cinematic VR experience via the Allosky VR headset. The maker, SkyLights, has developed this headset specifically for airplane travel. On the one hand, their big sell was a headset, which makes air travel easier for nervous flyers. Basically, you put it on and it distracts you from the reality of being in a plane. On the other hand, it has the potential to offer entertainment too.
This product will come with 2D, 3D and a handful of forward-facing “360” films in Full HD. The 360 films have been developed by the maker to give viewers a ‘front row” experience of things such as free diving, skiing and acrobatics. But before you dismiss this as a gimmick, it’s worth remembering this is a technology still being developed.
Essentially, they needed someone to support this to get the funds to carry on developing the product. So this year you might just be watching Three Billboards, Ready Player One and Ferdinand an inch from your eyeballs. But next year you might be able to take a city tour around to familiarise yourself with your destination.
A win for Alaska Airlines first class entertainment
While Alaska Airlines aren’t the first airline to offer the Skylight’s VR headset, they are the first in the US. European carriers Air France, Joon, Corsair and Jetfly are also testing Allosky. And the Aussie giant, Qantas started using Samsung’s Gear VR on some flights as far back as 2015.
Where can I fly with VR inflight entertainment
Right now, this is only a pilot program. Alaska Airlines will need to see if it’s a value add and how much extra work is required to deliver the program. All head sets will need to be cleaned and maintained. This might mean triple the headsets per route as they get swapped out at every stop. So to begin with, the Seattle-Boston and Boston-San Diego route flyers will get to test them out.
And if you get a chance to try them out – do let us know what you think.