Virtual reality content on offer to airline passengers

Man on plane wearing Samsung Gear virtual reality headsetImage source, Qantas
Image caption,
Passengers will be able to watch a selection of VR-tailored content

First-class passengers flying between Australia and the US will soon be able to watch content via a virtual reality headset, airline Qantas has announced.

In the first tie-up of its kind, the airline has teamed up with Samsung to provide the headsets for in-flight entertainment.

The Samsung Gear VR headsets will show a variety of tailored content.

Experts have questioned how much content will be available and what the impact on fellow passengers might be.

Qantas said the headset would offer new experiences for passengers.

"Whether the user wants a virtual tour of our new Los Angeles First Lounge or to experience an A380 landing from the tarmac, this technology gives us a completely new way to connect with our customers," said Qantas group executive Olivia Wirth.

"It's also a fantastic tool to feature our network's destinations, inspiring travel and promoting tourism."

She also promised "the virtual worlds of favourite Hollywood blockbusters," although it is unclear how much film content is currently available in the format.

Qantas said that it was working with production company Jaunt to develop more content for the device.

Immersive experience

Image source, Qantas
Image caption,
The trial will last three months

Ben Wood, director of research at the telecoms consultancy CCS Insight, said that getting good content would be the biggest challenge for Qantas.

He was also not convinced that an aircraft was the best place for virtual reality.

"I couldn't think of anything worse than sitting next to someone wearing this on a plane," he said.

"They would be fidgeting, looking behind them - it would drive me mad."

He also questioned how safe the experience would be.

"It is such an immersive experience, people would be completely unaware of what is going on around them and presumably it would not be linked in to the in-flight safety announcements."

Initially the trial will last for three months and will be made available to customers on certain flights between Australia and Los Angeles from mid-March. The headsets will also be available in the first-class lounges at Sydney and Melbourne airports, from February.

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