Qantas

Visit Australia with Qantas’ new virtual reality app

qantas-vr

Virtual vacations are starting to compete with the real thing.  But Qantas is hoping that by giving you a virtual taste Australia’s offerings, you’ll put get on a plane and go see for yourself.

Qantas first experiments with virtual reality  last year, when it offered a virtual reality visit to a couple of Australian destinations on Samsung Gear VR headsets in its First-Class cabin and Lounges.

Now the carrier has released a virtual reality app  with 13 videos showcasing a wide variety of Australian landscapes and events, with more promised in the next few weeks.

The app offers two modes: split screen for those who have a compatible headset or Google Cardboard and 2D landscape for viewing directly on a smartphone.

And if you like what you see, you can book flights to these destinations directly from the app.

Here are a few samples.

The first is a helicopter flight offering an aerial view of Uluru, one of the great natural wonders of the world.

Other videos offer a hot air balloon ride of Alice Springs and the Australian outback, a helicopter ride to Hamilton Island and a swim in the Great Barrier Reef, a climb on the Sydney Harbor Bridge and a wide  variety of other you-are-there experiences.

 

Virtual reality testing, courtesy Qantas

Forget the seat-back screen and your bring-on-board tablet.

In an in-flight entertainment first, Australian carrier Qantas will soon be making Samsung’s virtual reality headsets, called Gear VR, available to premium passengers on some long-distance flights.

Qantas virtual reality headsets to be tested on some A380 flights_courtesy Qantas

A three-month trial run begins in mid-March, when Qantas plans to make the headsets available to first-class passengers on some of the airline’s A380 flights between Australia and Los Angeles.

Visitors to Qantas first-class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne have headsets to test now.

Someday, Qantas says the VR technology “will transport customers to an immersive virtual world … and showcase the sights and delights of network destinations, new Qantas products and the latest in-flight blockbuster movies.”

But for now, Qantas is just giving passengers a virtual reality sampler of short features, or “vignettes,” filmed in Australia and produced by Palo Alto-based technology company Jaunt. The playlist that allows headset-wearers to watch a Qantas airplane take off and land and visit the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, a Qantas airport lounge and Kakadu, Australia’s largest national park.

“Travel and VR make a natural pair,” said Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen. “We’ve gone from no in-flight entertainment, to one drop-down screen, then screens in the seats, and now personal screens,” said Christensen.

“VR is the next step on the evolutionary scale,” he added. “Instead of a limited-size screen, a passenger is transported to a new location.”

That’s appealing if the technology is someday used to “virtually transport economy-class passengers in ultra-tight seating … to other more spacious ‘realities’ outside of the metal tube,” said Mary Kirby, founder of the Runway Girl Network. But widespread adoption by airlines “appears unlikely now” due in part to the high costs associated with the headsets and their handling, she added.

Another concern: making passengers sick. For some people find virtual reality experiences can sometimes trigger vertigo, nausea or worse.

“I think putting any device that simulates motion into something that is already moving will guarantee those air sickness bags won’t just be used for scribbling notes,” said Frank Catalano, a tech industry consultant and a columnist at GeekWire.

The stationary filming techniques used in the Qantas VR vignettes should help, said Jaunt’s Christensen, “When you’re in our environments, you’re stable. We found that eliminates the nausea.”

But what if the virtual reality experience is too good? Will travelers no longer need to actually go to the places they’ve “visited” during their flights?

“We think by transporting our customers to the immersive virtual worlds of destinations that [they] have never seen, the VR Gear will actually inspire our customers to travel more,” said Olivia Wirth, a Qantas executive for marketing and corporate affairs.

Catalano, a frequent traveler, agreed. “You simply can’t replicate the smells, the tastes, the serendipitous discoveries, the off-handed casual conversations with locals, the immersion into a new and different culture,” he said. “All virtual reality can do is stimulate the appetite for the real thing.”

(My story about virtual reality testing Qantas first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different format.)

Qantas reveals retro livery

Look what’s back:

Qantas-Retro-Livery-.tail

Qantas has reached way back for its first ever “retro” inspired livery, which can now be seen on one of the airline’s brand new Boeing 737 aircraft.

The design is a tribute to 70 years of the airline’s iconic flying kangaroo logo and was unveiled at a special hangar event in Seattle.

qantas retro livery - travola pointing

Qantas Ambassador and aviation enthusiast John Travolta (last seen welcoming the first Qantas A380 that flew from Sydney to Dallas) was on hand to help unveil the aircraft and the new/retro livery, which also brings back the ochre band around the window line of the aircraft, a signature element used from 1971-1984 referencing the colors of the Australian outback.

The winged kangaroo logo on the tail of this new aircraft was adapted from the original 1947 version designed by Gert Sellheim and brings back the wings on the flying kangaroo that were discarded in 1984.Qantas retro livery plane

The 737 will operate across all Qantas domestic routes starting November 20th.

A380s for DFW – first Qantas, now Emirates

It’s been a big A380 week for DFW International Airport:

On Monday, I was pleased to be on board when Qantas began flying the world’s largest airplane – the Airbus A380 – on the world’s longest nautical route – from Sydney to Dallas/Fort Worth.

The Qantas kangaroo got a makeover for flight from Sydney to Dallas

On Wednesday, DFW International Airport celebrated the arrival of another A380: this one belonging to Emirates and arriving from Dubai.

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As part of the celebration on the ground, not cupcakes, but cake.
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Airline amenity kits -Part 1

Airline amenity kits filled with personal care items have been handed out to business and/or first-class passengers on long commercial flights since at least the 1950s. Utilitarian at first, today these chic containers and their posh contents have become coveted and collectible and are often designed by top designers and filled with luxury products.

Here’s a look at some travelers’ favorite kits, past and present from the slide show I originally put together for CNBC Road Warrior.

1_PANAMKIT_SFOMUSEUM

A Pan Am World Airways amenity kit from the 1960s. “The President Special” was the name given to the airline’s first class service on several high-profile international routes. Courtesy SFO Museum

2_RemainOverNightkit_courtesySFOMuseum

Courtesy SFO Museum

The SFO Museum has 355 airline kits representing 57 airlines in its collection. The earliest were called “Remain Over Night” kits and produced in “his” and “hers” versions by the Airline Textile Manufacturing Company (AirTex) based in Des Moines, Iowa.

The men’s kit included deodorant, aftershave, hair cream, a razor, shoe polish and a comb. The women’s kit had hair spray, cleansing cream, hand cream and nail polish remover, according to the SFO Museum.

11_Qantas_Kate Spade and Jack Spade

Qantas, the flag carrier of Australia, partnered with Kate Spade New York and Jack Spade a couple of years ago to design exclusive amenity kits for customers traveling in the business class cabin. Each kit includes a selection of luxury Malin+Goetz skin care products as well as an eye mask, ear plugs, socks and other comfort essentials.

3A_DELTA Air Lines - new kit with lens cleaner

Delta’s Tumi amenity kit gets high marks from frequent travelers for both its contents and its re-usability. “It stands head and shoulders above the competition, with a good range of products, including lip balm, which is always something I forget,” said John Walton at Routehappy. It can also “easily be reused to pack thing likes extra batteries or headphone cords,” said Chris McGinnis, of Travelskills.com.

4A_SingaporeFerragamo Amenity Kit_Male and Female Products

Singapore Airline’s Salvatore Ferragamo-branded amenity kits stand out to Paul Shrater, co-founder of the online travel-size site Minimus.biz because “not only is Ferragamo a well-known luxury brand, but the kits include travel-sized perfume and cologne, a rarity in amenity kits and a product we recently launched due to customer demand.”

5A_EVA Rimowa Amenity Kits - contents

Sadly EVA Air has not created Hello Kitty-themed amenity kits to go with its fleet of Hello Kitty-themed aircraft, but when the airline introduced three brand-new Boeing 777-300ERs on its North America routes in the summer of 2014, it also introduced two new colors for its sought-after Rimowa amenity kits. Royal Laurel business class passengers receive one color on inbound flights and the other outbound. Contents complement the shells’ colors and include natural lip balm and moisturizing products by HARNN, lens-cleaning cloths and adjustable silk eye masks.

6_Japan airlines contents of amenity kit

All the items in Japan Airlines’ kit for First Class passengers “were perfectly color-coordinated,” said Oonagh Shiel, the editor who recently led a review of almost thirty airline amenity kits for Cheapflights.com. “The toothbrush matched the hair brush and the eye mask and we didn’t see another kit with a built-in hanger,” which open up possibilities for after-flight use in a hotel or at home, said Shiel. The airline distributes a beige canvas kits on flights departing Japan and a camel corduroy version on flights headed there.

More airline kits tomorrow.