Movie theater in the sky? Alaska trials VR entertainment at 35,000 feet

Guests enjoy catching up on the latest movies and TV shows when traveling. The popularity of our streaming and tablet entertainment systems is proof.

For a limited time, we’re taking it a step further by creating a movie theater-like experience at 35,000 ft.

We’ve partnered with innovative French company SkyLights to pioneer a new immersive virtual reality (VR) headset. Wearing the headset is comparable to having a personal movie screen in front of you. When paired with noise-cancelling headphones, it’s easy to feel like you’re at the movie theater instead of flying.

From Sept. 23-27, First Class guests onboard 10 flights between Boston and Seattle and Boston and San Diego will have a chance to experience it for themselves and offer feedback.

With this trial, Alaska becomes the first airline in North America to trial virtual reality headsets as an inflight entertainment device.

Testing VR headsets is part of our continuous effort to elevate the inflight experience. Already this year, we introduced new, West Coast-inspired food and drink menus, reimagined our lounges with the opening of the Alaska Lounge at JFK featuring a barista, and vastly expanded our streaming entertainment library. Later this year, we’ll unveil our first aircraft to feature our new custom interior with a custom First Class seat design, mood lighting and tablet holders.

First Class guests onboard one of our 10 VR trial flights can choose from a selection of 2D and 3D blockbusters provided by SkyLights’ partners 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers and EIM. Noteworthy titles include Academy Award winning “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” in 3D, and the family-friendly “Ferdinand.” There are also several 360° immersive experiences that let guests explore different worlds by just slowly moving their head around.

“I’m really excited to see this technology onboard. I was impressed with SkyLight’s Allosky headset early on as it’s the smallest, lightest, and most stylish VR headset in the inflight entertainment market,” said David Scotland, Alaska Airlines Manager of Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity. “These trials will help us understand how comfortable our guests are using the technology, if they prefer it to our current offerings, and let our flight attendants share feedback about its impact to our inflight service flow.”

A member of the SkyLights team will fly on each of the test flights to ensure guests and flight attendants have support. The test is limited to guests traveling in First Class.

“We’re testing with guests in our First Class cabin as it makes for a nicely contained focus group in the air,” Scotland said. “We’ve made no official commitments to pursuing VR long-term but this trial will help us shape our future strategy.”

Feedback from Guest Advisory Board:

Alaska and SkyLights partnered last year to get feedback from the airline’s Guest Advisory Board on the headset. Group members include some of our most frequent fliers. Guests were enthusiastic about the potential for using the technology inflight. Feedback from this session led to design tweaks – including more intuitive buttons for navigating the menu and a wider array of lens adjustment options. As Alaska launches these trials, we’ll monitor if that excitement carries over to the flight experience.

About SkyLights:

SkyLights is an American-French company specializing in immersive in-flight entertainment. The company first showcased the Allosky device, which offers Full HD resolution (1080p per eye), a sleek, lightweight design, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi at the Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) Expo in September 2017.

Photos by Ingrid Barrentine.

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