First-class Qantas passengers can test out Samsung Gear VR.

First-Class Flyers Get to Try Virtual Reality, Coach Passengers Stuck in Real Reality 

First-Class Flyers Get to Try Virtual Reality, Coach Passengers Stuck in Real Reality 

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 29 2015 5:34 PM

First-Class Flyers Get to Try Virtual Reality, Coach Passengers Stuck in Real Reality 

FT-150129-VR
Live it up, buddy.

Photo by Brent Winstone courtesy Samsung Electronics Australia/Qantas

On most plane trips, I try to block out my sweaty, track pants–wearing fellow travelers with an eye mask and iPad. But from mid-March, I can ignore them behind an immersive, virtual reality headset—if I’m flying first class.

The Australian airline Qantas, in partnership with Samsung Electronics Australia, just announced that it will offer virtual-reality technology on some flights. For three months, a few lucky travelers in the Sydney and Melbourne International First Lounges and in the first class cabin on certain A380 flights between Australia and Los Angeles will be able to live out the roughly 13-hour trip in virtual reality—the kind not caused by vast quantities of Veuve Clicquot.

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“From an inflight entertainment perspective, it’s an industry first,” said Qantas Group Executive Olivia Wirth in a press release. Passengers will be able to access tailored entertainment options with their Samsung Gear VR headsets, as well as preview some destinations. The Northern Territory tourism bureau is already on board, with Qantas to include a 3-D experience of the splendid Kakadu National Park.

The Samsung Gear VR, which currently retails at $199.99, recently went on sale at Best Buy. As the Verge noted, the move was somewhat surprising, given that Samsung has long insisted that the headset is in its first iteration, meant for “content creators and VR enthusiasts” rather than general consumers.

Apparently, it’s now ready for big-box store shoppers and, if Qantas’ promotional video is accurate, attractive young people, whose heads will be rotating like fairground clowns on your next Sydney–to–Los Angeles flight. You might think that there would be nothing more annoying than the passenger sitting next to you swiveling madly in their seat. However, let me gently point out the sheer size of the “pod” you get in Qantas’ A380 first class cabin. (Or take a look at the YouTube subcategory of gracious people who have documented their entire first-class trip.)

The more virtual reality the better, I say. But give us plebeians a go. The rich already live in a more rarefied world than the rest of us. Now they get the virtual one, too?

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Ariel Bogle is an associate editor based at New America with the Future Tense program. Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.