UK flag carrier British Airways announced on 14 August plans to offer virtual reality entertainment as a first-class perk on some of its flights in a first for Britain.
From now until the end of 2019, British Airways passengers travelling in the first-class cabin on “selected BA117 flights” from London’s Heathrow Airport to JFK in New York will be provided with AlloSky headsets made by San Francisco-based immersive inflight entertainment company Skylights, an alumni of the airline’s parent company IAG’s Hangar 51 start-up accelerator programme.
This will allow customers to “enjoy a selection of award-winning films, documentaries and travel programmes in 2D, 3D or 360° formats,” British Airways said in a statement.
Earlier this year, British Airways trialed the technology at Heathrow Terminal 5, giving customers a glimpse of the Club World cabin through virtual reality.
British Airways is the first UK airline to trial the technology and said it had “worked with experts” to select a range of therapeutic programmed, including guided meditation and sound therapy, specifically designed for customers who have a fear of flying.
“We are always looking at the latest technology to enhance our customers’ experience on the ground and in the air,” Sajida Ismail, Head of Inflight Product at British Airways, said. “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-class] customers”.
This is the airline’s centenary year. During August, British Airways’ birthday month, a celebratory exhibition – BA 2119: Flight of the Future – will run at the Saatchi Gallery in London. The exhibition was created in collaboration with the Royal College of Art and is based on global research commissioned by the airline to identify what aviation could look like in the future.
It will also showcase a virtual reality experience called “Fly” that traces humankind’s relationship with flying from the earliest imaginings of Leonardo da Vinci and his “ornithopter” to the Wright Brothers’ success on Kitty Hawk and the first passengers flight to Paris among other things.
The airline plans to invest £6.5 billion in its customers over five years, including better quality Wi-Fi and power in every seat, new interiors for 128 of its long-haul aircraft, and taking delivery of 72 new aircraft.
It has already introduced a new business class seat with direct aisle access – the Club Suite – and will host a range of activities and events through the rest of the year with the aim of exploring “the future of sustainable aviation fuels and the aviation careers of the future”.