“I flew from New York-JFK to Abu Dhabi alongside Nicole Kidman”–Well, Not Really…


Etihad's a380 Lounge ( (C) Etihad Airways)

Etihad’s a380 Lounge (Image: Etihad Airways)

I recently bought a Samsung VR (virtual reality) headset as an early birthday present from me to me.  In all honesty, I thought this would be something I would buy, mess around with for a few hours, and then return back to Best Buy the next day.  These new virtual reality headsets have been the talk of the consumer tech world for the last year or so.  VR headsets have been advertised to deliver a life-like experience so lifelike it’s almost like reality.  Hence the term, “virtual reality”.  I guess I fell prey to the futuristic Samsung ads and YouTube videos highlighting the alternate realities I could experience for a cool hundred bucks.  S0, yeah, I bought a VR headset.  After only a few minutes of taking the Samsung VR headset out of the box, I came across something so amazing my jaw-dropped.  A few hours ago, I flew from New York-JFK to Abu Dhabi alongside Nichole Kidman in the Residence.  Meanwhile, in (actual) reality, I was just sitting on the couch in my pajamas next to an empty Tim Horton’s donut box but in my alternate reality, I was sitting in Etihad’s business class studio listening to today’s dining options.

$99 and a Samsung Device and You’ve Got Virtual Reality!


Samsung's Gear VR (Samsung)

Samsung’s Gear VR (Image: Samsung)

Before I get too involved in what it’s like to fly in Etihad’s Airbus a380, I’ll explain how I managed to fly Economy Class, Business Class, First Class, and the Residence all for $99.  One of the best VR devices out there is the Samsung VR headset powered by Oculus.  It’s also priced relatively affordable at $99.00.  The catch is that the Samsung’s VR  headset requires a compatible Samsung smartphone.  Once you’ve got your VR headset, you’ll want to visit the Oculus Video application, go to featured video, scroll down.  A few rows down and you’ll arrive at the Etihad a380 Experience.  That’s where the real (or virtual) fun begins.

Note: There are a few other compatible headsets (all require a computer or smartphone) but Etihad makes access to this VR “movie” fairly straightforward.

Here’s the link to the official VR movie: Etihad’s Reimagine VR 

Experience Etihad’s Entire a380


From one of the last rows of coach to the Residence’s bedroom, Etihad’s VR movie “Reimagine” covers the entire aircraft cabin.  The opening shot features Nichole Kidman and another gentleman sitting in Etihad’s onboard lounge.  A few moments later, Kidman’s butler informs her that lunch is ready.  Yes, if you fly in the Residence you get your own personal butler.

I was then whisked away back to coach, a very colorful coach cabin rather, featuring flight attendant’s caring for newborns, a paper airplane soaring through the cabin, and fellow passengers socializing.  As bizarre as it might sound, I legitimately thought I was standing in the aisle of the aircraft.  Well, I didn’t actually think I was onboard but it was truly bizarre.

Etihad's Economy Class on the a380 ((C) Etihad Airways)

Etihad’s Economy Class on the a380 (Image: Etihad Airways)

From the coach cabin, I took a tour of the various premium cabins including the Business Studios, First Apartments, and The Residence.  First, I took a mid-flight stroll down the business class aisle while the onboard chef highlights the flight’s menu to a fellow passenger.  Passengers are fully reclined in their seats snoozing away.  Other passengers are working on laptops, eating Etihad’s fine fare, or enjoying Etihad’s in-flight entertainment system.

After my mid-flight stroll, I got to enjoy a few moments in our own Business Class Studio.  This scene is one of the most interesting and most unique scenes in the film as you are actually placed into a seat.  With the VR headset, I was able to look around the entire suite as if I were actually sitting in a Business Class Studio.  Just as soon as I was seated, it was time to move on.

I was once again brought into the onboard lounge.  This time around, I’m just seated in the lounge like any normal person listening to the chatter amongst my fellow passengers.  Directly behind me was a gentleman with a falcon.  This particular scene is one of the more immersive and realistic scenes (minus the falcon).  The ratio and size of everything relative to the viewer was perfect in this scene.  If you wear noise canceling headphones, you might actually feel like you are sitting in the onboard lounge (for a split second).

Etihad's Onboard Lounge in VR ((C) Etihad Airways)

Etihad’s Onboard Lounge in VR (Image: Etihad Airways)

The last few scenes involve the First Apartments and the Residence.  What really makes the sequence involving the First Apartments stand out is the passengers.  The falconer sits in his apartment enjoying a snack, a couple awakes from a nap, and a woman practices opera after exiting the onboard shower suite.  I can only imagine how spectacular Etihad’s Airbus a380 really is.  Everything is so detailed and exquisite even in virtual reality.

Following the First Apartments sequence, I was welcomed into Nichole Kidman’s Residence.  The Residence is split into three separate components; a living room, shower, and bedroom.  The Residence sequence isn’t as immersive or real as the other cabin sequences likely due to how difficult it was filming in the multi-room suite.  Still, The Residence is phenomenal in virtual reality.

The final sequence is my favorite scene in the entire film.  Once we’ve explored the interior of the Airbus a380 we are transported outside of the aircraft and get to experience the aircraft cruising at 35,000 feet.  It’s truly mindblowing how real and immersive such an extravagant scene can feel.  Once the screen fades to black, the credits roll.


Etihad's a380 ( (C) Etihad Airways)

Etihad’s a380 (Image: Etihad Airways)

Virtual Reality definitely has a future in the consumer tech world.  At $99, Samsung’s VR headset offers an unreal experience at a (somewhat) reasonable cost.


Etihad’s branding team went all out in their first VR film, “Reimagine” which I have to say is absolutely stunning.  I never thought I’d ever feel so close and so immersed in Etihad’s one-of-a-kind Airbus a380.  Over the course of a few minutes, I managed to go from my couch to Etihad’s Residence and then back to my couch.

I’ve really begun to consider virtual reality’s possible role in future travel.  VR has the potential to completely overhaul the onboard experience.  Qantas has already begun to offer Oculus VR headsets to First Class passengers for the duration of the flight.  Qantas hopes that passengers will be able to enjoy a more immersive in-flight entertainment experience.  I can vouch for Qantas and say that VR headsets do just that–they are truly immersive.

With VR technology finally becoming mainstream and affordable, we’re not too far from the days of cabins filled with passengers watching featured films on their own personal VR headsets.  I for one, plan on bringing my VR headset along with me on my next few flights no matter how idiotic I will look wearing it.