You know what gets me through those long hours of uncomfortable sitting, aching legs, mediocre meals, screaming kids, rude passengers, long waits for the bathroom and mind-numbing boredom on a flight? The promise of what awaits me on the other side.
It's often said it's not about the destination, but the journey. I say air travel is absolutely the exception.
None among us would suffer a flight if it wasn't for the fact it's the fastest way to get us to where we want to be. That's the only thing flying has going for it, reports News.com.au.
So I can't help but question the latest venture from Japan's First Airlines, which is giving passengers the whole in-flight experience — without taking them anywhere.
This, folks, is a virtual reality experience. From First Airlines' base in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, paying "passengers" are handed a boarding pass and directed to their Airbus seats in re-created business and first class cabins.
With their VR headsets, the travellers — who, let's be clear, will not actually travel — experience a simulated takeoff and landing. They hear all the safety instructions, in-flight announcements and sounds of aircraft engines, and they're served in-flight meals, drinks and snacks by flight attendants.
It's a faithful recreation of a real flight experience (presumably without the mid-air calamities, massive delays and screaming kids, but who knows) for precisely 111 minutes, and you never leave the ground.
"For me, it's difficult to have a trip because of the cost, like time and money," First Airlines manager Hirokai Abe offered CNN by way of explanation for this baffling venture.
"If I can easily access the airport and take a flight even though it's virtual, I thought it would be so cool."
Hang on, mate. Really?
I'm all for cool innovation. I'm especially all for Japanese innovation, which usually has a brilliant knack for delivering things we really need, such as well-functioning rail networks, hot drink vending machines and self-flushing toilets.
And I have no issue with virtual reality, even for fun. But why would I pay ($60 for business class, $70 for first class) to virtually experience something I already find inherently not fun?
They may as well create a VR simulation of a 9am traffic jam, a day's wait for a postman that never shows up, or a self-serve check-out where an unexpected item is perpetually in the bagging area.
And while I'll admit a VR first class flight is probably the only first class flight I'll have anytime soon, the appeal of the elite cabin is how much it seeks to recreate the experience of being on land, while in the air.
If you're not going to leave land, what's the point?
Also, let's not forget being a passenger is BORING AS HELL. I'd be happy to do one of those aircraft simulations where you get to (pretend to) pilot the plane from the cockpit.
But with this, you literally do nothing. Except sit. And wait for the time to pass. And perhaps wonder why, after you've flown on an actual plane all the way to Tokyo, you decided to board a fake plane and do nothing. Except sit. And wait for the time to pass.
(Also, FYI: Ikebukuro, where First Airlines' hub is, is just one hour from Tokyo Disneyland, which costs just a few extra yen for a whole day of real fun — just sayin'.)
Towards the end of the fake flight experience, passengers can take in a 360-degree virtual city tour of their "destination" — including as Paris, Rome and Hawaii — through video and projection mapping.
Now THAT is cool. But it should be the focal point of the experience. Not the boring "getting there" bit.
First Airlines, you are clearly very clever. But you should put your wonderful brainpower and skills and money into making the actual experience of real air travel a bit more tolerable.
That's something I can really get on board with.