Lonely Planet Writer

Japan's virtual reality airline offers the full experience of a flight without going anywhere

Ever feel like being whisked away on holiday, but just don’t have the time or money for it? Well fear not, as one Japanese company has created a fully-fledged, virtual reality airline, where customers book “flights”, wear augmented reality headsets, dine on in-flight meals, and explore worldwide destinations, all without ever leaving a room.

First Airlines virtual reality airline in Tokyo
Customers sit in a room designed to look like identical to a plane. Image by First Airlines

Called First Airlines, the Tokyo-based company has a dedicated website where customers can book their “flights”, choosing seats in either business class (¥4,980/US$46) or first class (¥5,980/US$60). Upon visiting the virtual aviation facility in Ikebukuro, guests take part in a 110-minute flight simulation to either New York, Paris, Rome or Hawaii, with special activities in each destination included.

Guests wear virtual reality headsets to experience the flight, before exploring their destination.
Guests wear virtual reality headsets to experience the flight, before exploring their destination. Image by First Airlines

Customers sit in a room designed to look exactly like a plane, in real airbus seats that have been salvaged from an airline, and in an effort to make the flight a full multi-sensory experience, First Airlines provides in-flight meals specially-designed by a dedicated chef. Each menu changes depending on the destination of the flight, with the trip to France featuring dishes such as salmon tartar and onion soup, while the New York flight menu includes chopped salad and Manhattan clam chowder. Guests can also be surprised with cake for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, and are looked after by real flight attendants that have been trained in the industry. Upon arrival at their virtual destination, guests can take 360-degree tours and visit famous landmarks.

First Airlines Rome
The experience includes tours of famous landmarks in each location. Image by First Airlines

“We have many older customers who can’t go abroad easily. Also, many people face the obstacles of being busy or having children that they cannot leave or take with them when travelling. We can easily give them an experience and make the dream a reality by using virtual trips. Customers say the experience is fun, exciting and enjoyable, and some of them come back more than once,” a representative of First Airlines told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Customers are served specially prepared in-flight meals based on the destination they are travelling to. Image by First Airlines

More information on taking part in the experience is available on the official website.