Just about everyone can agree that Christmas is going to look different this year. “Different” doesn’t have to mean “less fun” or “less memorable,” though. In fact, with a little bit of planning, this could be the best Christmas yet!
To spread some extra holiday cheer this year, Finnair, Santa’s official airline, is using virtual reality to offer eight “flights” to Santa’s hometown of Rovaniemi, Finland. This will be Finnair’s first-ever virtual flight experience.
Starting on December 25, Finnair’s virtual reality flights will be available for just €10 ($12) per person. All of the flights’ profits will go to a fund created by UNICEF, which will help children who have been negatively affected by COVID-19.
Of course, these flights are a fun way for kids to meet with Santa in a safe and socially distanced way. However, their purpose is two-fold. They’re also an awesome way for Finnair to show off virtual reality powers and present a new type of travel.
Originally, virtual reality was seen as something only for gamers. It has limitless potential, though, and the pandemic has undoubtedly increased people’s interest in using virtual reality for other things besides gaming.
The travel industry, which has been hit very hard by COVID-19, has a particular interest in utilizing virtual reality. It needs to find a way to make traveling safe, fun, and accessible without violating any of the restrictions that are currently in place. Finnair is working to create that approach.
The airline teamed up with Zoan, a Finnish virtual reality studio, to launch the company’s virtual Santa flights. The flights use the Unreal Engine, a 3D graphics platform that has previously been used for high-quality virtual reality video games.
Laura Olin, the Chief Operating Officer of Zoan, has said that accessibility is a top priority for her team and Finnair’s team.
In an interview, Olin explained that one way Zoan and Finnair have made the flights accessible is by making them browser-based. Folks don’t need to have VR headsets to experience a trip to Rovaniemi. They can take flight using their computer, tablet, or smartphone.
The flights will offer 360-degree views. That way, participants can look around and see something new from every angle. This will create a truly immersive experience, even without a VR headset. What kind of scenes will “travelers” get to see?
Those who take a Finnair virtual flight will start by experiencing a virtual Finnair Nordic Business Class seat. Their flight will last roughly 30 minutes, and they’ll have a chance to take in the Northern Lights, as well as festive soundscapes, stunning decorations, and refreshments offered by a virtual cabin crew.
After their flight, travelers will land in Rovaniemi and take a tour of Santa’s workshop. Finnair promises that there will be plenty of surprises throughout the trip, including appearances from beloved Christmas characters.
For those who are ready to “fly” and make this holiday season one to remember (in a positive way), tickets for the virtual flights are now available online through the Finnair Shop.