The Tokyo-based service sits 12 passengers in an airplane-type setting, where they’re served four-course dinners, and then put on virtual reality headsets to be transported to Paris. The experience, run by a Japanese company called First Airlines, gives people the opportunity to go on a luxury vacation without ever taking off.
The drawbacks to this type of vacation are obvious: you only go where the headset takes you and you don’t really experience the country or the culture. But perhaps a comparison to a real vacation is unfair. The VR trip costs 6,600 yen (around $62), and is a two-hour experience. The first reaction of many people will be to scoff at a VR holiday, and explain how it could never compare to the real thing, but if you can’t afford a holiday, then spending two hours exploring a new place in VR and pretending to travel isn’t a bad option.
“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,” Takashi Sakano, 39, who was on his first VR trip, told Reuters.
And consumers in Japan seem to agree, the “flights”, which go to Paris, Rome, Hawaii, and New York, have been fully booked since the company began in 2016.
Virtual reality has been used for people to travel previously, including to help the elderly see the world when they aren’t able to physically travel. According to Reuters, many of the customers enjoying the experience at First Airlines are also elderly. Hiroaki Abe, who represents the company, told the news agency: “We have lots of elderly customers, who want to go overseas but are not able to easily, given their physical limitations.”