British Airways to trial VR headsets on aircraft, but only for first class

15 Aug 2019

Image: Nick Morrish/British Airways

A limited number of British Airways passengers will soon get a chance to watch their in-flight movie through a VR headset.

Virtual reality (VR) is taking to the skies as part of a trial on select British Airways flights. Customers will be able to enjoy a selection of films, documentaries and travel programmes available in 2D, 3D or 360-degree formats through VR headsets, which the airline says is a UK first.

This includes therapeutic programmes, with guided meditation and sound therapy designed to help travellers who suffer with a fear of flying. It will work whether the passenger is sitting upright or lying flat during their flight, British Airways explained.

The technology will be available to first-class flyers on select flights from London Heathrow to New York JFK until the end of 2019.

“We are always looking at the latest technology to enhance our customers’ experience on the ground and in the air,” said Sajida Ismail, head of in-flight product at British Airways.

“VR 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.”

British Airways has enlisted VR eyewear firm SkyLights to carry out the test using its AlloSky headsets. The airline has committed to investing £6.5bn for its customers over five years, which will go towards improvements such as installing more Wi-Fi services and power to aircraft seats.

Bringing technologies such as VR to the skies is becoming big business for a number of start-ups. Coinciding with the British Airways announcement, it was revealed that Inflight VR – a start-up with offices in Barcelona and Munich –had secured €4m in funding.

In February, it began offering its VR and 3D entertainment services on board select flights of the Spanish airline, Iberia. It is also working with other airlines such as Jin Air and Singapore Airlines to roll out the technology on board.

– PA Media, with additional reporting by Colm Gorey