British Airways To Trial Virtual Reality Entertainment On New York Flights

British Airways is set to trial offering virtual reality to a select group of passengers flying between London and New York. The trial will last until the end of the year, allowing British Airways to evaluate the system in use.

British Airways, Virtual Reality, New York
British Airways is set to begin trialing VR with selected New York passengers. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

In its 100th year of operation, British Airways has been busy. Towards the start of the year, the airline was looking at its past 100 years. However, now the airline is beginning to focus on its future. As part of this, the airline launched an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery exploring the next 100 years of aviation.

The plan

British Airways has started offering its new virtual reality in-flight entertainment to a select few customers traveling in First. By select few, we mean very select few. The system will only be offered onboard flight BA117 traveling from London’s Heathrow Airport to JFK in New York. Indeed, it gets even more exclusive, as British Airways says the technology will only be offered on select BA117 flights.

BA117 is the carrier’s early morning flight to New York’s JFK airport. According to BA’s schedule, the flight is due to depart London Heathrow at 08:30, meaning an early start for passengers.

British Airways, Virtual Reality, New York
The virtual reality system will be available to trial on BA117 until the end of the year. Photo: British Airways

However, those lucky enough to be trialing the new system will be able to use the airline’s First Wing for a quiet, relaxed security experience. After a 7-hour and 40-minute flight across the North Atlantic, the aircraft is due to touch down in New York at 11:10, perfect for afternoon meetings.

BA117 is operated by a Boeing 747, which means that the first class cabin has 14 seats according to Seat Guru. As such, by only operating the trial on one flight daily, the initial investment needed for the system is likely to be limited.

About the system

The system allows passengers to experience Virtual Reality while traveling at 36,000ft. We raised questions about whether the VR experience would be affected by the movement of the aircraft, however, we were assured that it only reacts to the passenger’s head.

Content on the new VR system is unfortunately fairly limited for the time being. However, it could be expanded if the trial is successful. For August, the system has seven fully immersive VR experiences. The content will be refreshed every month, so frequent flyers won’t get bored!

British Airways, Virtual Reality, New York
The system is currently only available onboard one Boeing 747 flight. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Content includes two five-minute episodes for children, which see the story of British robots joining the NYPD delivered in VR. There are also three stories for adults which range from 11-37 minutes in length. Finally, there are two mindfulness VR experiences, both lasting around five minutes. These experiences offer 360-degree views.

The remainder of the offering on the VR system is drawn from the carrier’s regular in-flight entertainment system. Existing content is delivered on a screen in the VR system, akin to being at the cinema. For August there are 13 films, 12 of which can be watched in 3D. There are also five documentaries, all in 2D. While one is about pandas, the other four focus on exploration sports.

VR System
The system reacts to passenger movements ignoring the aircraft’s movements. Photo: British Airways

“Revolutionise in-flight entertainment”

Speaking on the new in-flight entertainment experience, Sajida Ismail, Head of Inflight Product at British Airways, said,

“We are always looking at the latest technology to enhance our customers’ experience on the ground and in the air. Virtual reality has the power to revolutionise in-flight entertainment and we’re really excited to trial these new glasses as they should create a unique and memorable journey for our First customers”.

What do you think of BA’s new VR system? Will it be a success or a gimmick? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!