First-ever Finnair virtual reality flight to see Santa delivers some magic this festive season

posted on 8th December 2020 by Eddie Saunders
First-ever Finnair virtual reality flight to see Santa delivers some magic this festive season

Families will soon be able to fly with Finnair to see Santa in Lapland, thanks to the magic of virtual reality (VR). From 25 December, Finnair will offer eight ‘flights’ using virtual reality to transport lucky families and children to visit Santa in his hometown of Rovaniemi.

Finnair, which is Santa’s official airline, is using VR to offer customers an immersive 360-degree experience. The flights are created by Finnish VR studio Zoan with one of the most advanced real-time 3D graphics tools, Unreal Engine. Virtual customers can enjoy a flight on their mobile phones or laptops where they will experience the thrill of sitting in Finnair’s comfortable Nordic Business Class. You can also use a VR headset that can access a web browser and open a video.

You can enjoy refreshments served by cabin crew, admire the starry skies and gaze upon the dramatic northern lights from your ‘seat’. The VR experience will also offer familiar flight soundscapes, festive decorations and perhaps even the glimpse of a familiar festive figure sitting in one of the other seats! After landing in the wintry city of Rovaniemi, customers will be able to cross the Arctic Circle and enter Santa’s cabin to meet Santa Claus himself.

Each of the eight VR flights to Lapland lasts about thirty minutes and costs just €10 per person. Seats can be reserved from the Finnair Shop. Besides experiencing something wonderfully festive, lucky customers who board the virtual flight will also be giving something towards those who are less fortunate and need help. All proceeds will go to supporting UNICEF’s work to slow the spread of Covid-19 and minimise the pandemic’s impact on children worldwide.

Mikko Turtiainen, Finnair VP of Global Sales, said: “Thanks to the magic of Virtual Reality, Finnair can ‘fly’ families to Rovaniemi in Lapland – despite the travel restrictions – to enjoy a winter wonderland and meet Santa. I hope this brings a big smile to those participating.”

“As Santa’s official airline, we’re excited to harness modern technology to create a truly memorable holiday experience. Our customers around the world will be able to enjoy the timeless wonder and holiday cheer of Finnish Lapland from the comfort of their own homes, while enjoying the thrill of sitting in Finnair Business Class. We hope it will inspire them to travel again once the time is right.”

Sanna Kärkkäinen, CEO of Visit Rovaniemi, said: “The time could not be better for a holiday VR experience on the wings of Santa’s official airline. We’ve been developing our VR experience in Rovaniemi for over a year now and joining forces with Finnair is a fantastic way to reach a global audience with a seasonal message – and a heart full of hope.”

The lack of high-quality content offerings has been one of the biggest barriers to mainstream adoption of VR technologies, but Finnair has been pioneering VR since 2016. It first used VR to showcase its Airbus A350 cabin experience at industry events with specially provided headsets.

The Covid-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst to speed up the adoption of virtual experiences among consumers. As people have become more comfortable with virtual reality, Finnair has been able to demonstrate through the VR flight concept that mainstream virtual events can go beyond simple online meetings or videos to create a more meaningful and engaging experience.

Tiina Tissari, VP of Customer Experience and Products at Finnair, said: “We think VR is an important tool which could be used to complement the physical in-flight experience. Customers could, for instance, choose their holiday destination or make travel plans by checking out sights and locations through VR. We also believe the in-flight experience will become more personalised so that customers can customise and enhance their journey to fit their individual needs and preferences. VR could also be a valuable tool here.”