Travelers miss flying so much that they’re taking "flights" to nowhere

When an in-flight virtual reality experience called First Airlines started offering faux flights in the Ikebukuro neighborhood of Tokyo in 2017, you could say it was ahead of its time. Three years later, in the grips of a global pandemic that has grounded the vast majority of flights, Tokyo’s business travelers are leaning on the VR experience for a taste of international travel without leaving their city.

“I often go overseas on business, but I haven’t been to Italy,” one local businessman, who tried the experience recently, told Reuters. “My impression was rather good because I got a sense of actually seeing things there.”

The appeal of an “in-flight” meal, a first-class “lounge” and a first-class seat plucked off an Airbus aircraft is that most frequent travelers are unlikely to see the real thing any time soon. The First Airlines experience channels all the minute details of flying, from departures screens in the lounge to flight attendants carrying out safety protocols. And the two-hour virtual reality experience, complete with a four-course meal and window TV screens replicating exterior views, is cheaper than an actual first-class plane ticket at about $62, or 6,580 yen.