You’re probably going to either really love or absolutely loathe this latest form of in-flight entertainment, courtesy of Icelandair. If your idea of entertainment on a long haul flight is catching up with all the latest blockbusters then this might not appeal to you. If however, you like nothing better than watching every movement the cabin crew make then read on.
A few days ago, Icelandair staged a very special theatre production on an actual flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK via Reykjavik. Yes, that’s right – real passengers took part in the three-act “immersive theatre performance” which the airline titled ‘Ahead of Time’.
Not that you should expect a similar experience on your next flight with the Icelandic airline. This was a strictly one off production to celebrate the airline’s 80th anniversary. The production followed Icelandair’s history from the dawn of civil aviation, through the ages and imagining what flight will look like in the future.
The show kicked off in the departures terminal at Heathrow Airport where passengers met the lead character, Edda for the first time. The airline told us that ‘Ahead of Time’ wasn’t just about Icelandair as an airline but its role in furthering female empowerment and equality.
Consider this, in 1915 Iceland became one of the first countries in the world to give women the right to vote. Fast forward to 1985 and Icelandair hired its first female pilot. Just a few years later in 1989, Iceland voted in the world’s first democratically elected female President (Icelandair commemorated the occasion by naming its first Boeing 737-400 after her).
Now back to the theatre experience. Here’s how the drama unfolded:
- First came boarding, where everyone had handwritten cards as boarding passes
- The safety demonstration was performed by an air hostess from the 60’s
- Passengers enjoyed an in-flight meal based on an original 1950’s menu
- Then a farmer from the 1930’s serenaded passengers with a traditional Icelandic folk song
- A ballet performance from today took place at the boarding gate
- And finally, in his in-flight announcement, the captain mused what air travel would look like in the future – moon landing anyone?
And the best bit? Along with the professional actors brought in for the day, many of the parts were played by real Icelandair cabin crew. They even received stage school training from Immersive theatre group, Gideon Reeling.
“Throughout our 80 years, we’ve always put customer service at our heart and we’re pleased to pioneer a new form of entertainment and value-added service for passengers,” explained Birkir Hólm Guðnason, Icelandair’s chief executive.
Apart from this being as a way to celebrate the airline’s birthday, Icelandair decided to stage this rather unorthodox form of inflight entertainment based on new research carried out by the company. They found that passengers are now demanding better customer service (hardly ground breaking) but also want unique entertainment with a human touch – well, this was certainly unique.
Icelandair says it wants to “transform wasted time whilst travelling into time well-travelled.” Over the next few months the airline will be putting on other events that aim to surprise and challenge passengers perceptions of what inflight entertainment should be.
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.