Cabin crew can struggle at the best of times to grab the attention of passengers who are otherwise engrossed watching the in-flight entertainment. Even the simple task of serving tea and coffee can turn into a performance of charades. So spare a thought for Air France flight attendants who now have to contend with passengers wearing immersive virtual reality headsets.
The French flag carrier is rolling out what it calls “a brand new immersive entertainment system in partnership with the start-up SkyLights.” The system makes use of virtual reality headsets to allow passengers to watch both 3D and 2D movies. Air France likens the concept to offering a “private movie theatre in isolation from the rest of the cabin.” So far, only 40 movies have been adapted for use with the system.
The idea is only just in the testing phase with limited numbers of passengers currently getting to enjoy the experience. So far, the system is only available to Business Class passengers on Air France’s, Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Sint Maarten route. The virtual reality glasses and upgraded inflight entertainment system have been fitted to a single Airbus A340-300 in the airline’s fleet.
At the moment, only four headsets are available on each flight – and with 30 seats available in the Business Class cabin, clearly, most passengers aren’t going to get an opportunity to experience the “private movie theatre” concept.
But that’s not to say the system won’t be rolled out further. Air France is conducting the trial run as a “valuable learning experience” as part of its plan to improve the customer experience with “original and innovative solutions.” It comes under the airline’s Open Innovation project.
Air France has confirmed its intentions to expand its use of virtual reality headsets after the trial run with new routes to be named in due course. There’s no definite timescale at the moment but the airline has said it wants more passengers to be enjoying the experience in “months” rather than years.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.