Here's How Cathay Pacific is Using Virtual Reality to Help Build the Airline of the Future

2017 was the year when the 1980s' promise of virtual reality (VR) technology finally became a reality. Businesses in every industry are excited to find innovative ways to utilize this new tech, and Cathay Pacific is no different.

Cathay Pacific Airways was founded in Shanghai in 1946 by Australian Sydney de Kantzow and American Roy Farrell. De Kantzow and Farrell were both experienced Air Force pilots and, after buying their first aircraft, began offering freight services between Australia and China.

Today, Cathay Pacific is one of largest companies in the world. It employs 24,603 people, and has a market cap of $5.7 billion, earning it a spot on the Forbes Global 2000 list of the world's biggest public companies.

From its first plane, to the modern digital world, technology is at the forefront of Cathay Pacific's business model. And now it's set its sights on VR as well.

Cathay Pacific Virtual

One great way Cathay Pacific is using VR technology to better the experience for its customers is through its Cathay Pacific Virtual hub. Touted as a 'virtual airline,' the site has an area where Cathay Pacific pilot can log in and take part in virtual flight simulator exercises and run drills from any location with an internet connection.

Cathay Pacific said via a press release, "We consider Cathay Pacific Virtual to be one of the most modern virtual airlines around. We built our own ACARS program in house which many consider the best in the virtual airline world. Unlike others who use free virtual airline code like phpVMS, we built everything ourselves. Our real-world schedules are always up to date since we use live sources and real-time data. We like realism, but at the same time we allow our members to have choice. Flights can be flown on VATSIM, IVAO or offline if you wish."

Not only does Cathay Pacific Virtual have features designed to create better pilots, but anyone can go on the website and access a load of statistics and other information on the people in whose hands they are placing their lives when they choose to fly with Cathay Pacific. When visiting the site, stats for each pilot and for the airline as a whole can be viewed, giving a new level of transparency for Cathay Pacific customers - all augmented with the power of VR technology.

The Virtual Cabin

Not content with the innovations put forward with Cathay Pacific Virtual, the airline has now used VR technology to run the world's first interactive 360o video advertisement. While not the first company to use 360o video in its advertisements, the level of interactivity in Cathay Pacific's truly sets it apart.

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"The biggest challenge for these marketers remains distribution and viewers, but with VR campaigns having shown a tenfold increase in interaction and engagement compared to flat 2D advertisements, we expect their use to increase exponentially," said Brad Phaisan, founder and CEO of OmniVirt, the company who's technology made the advertisement possible.

With the new Cathay Pacific advertisement, customers can virtually tour every aspect of the traveler's journey - from the check-in desk to the cabin and even the bar - in a similar manner to how Google Street View works, only with video in-place of static images. Users can click on certain hotspots within the image to get more information about a feature they may want to know more about. They can also click directly through to a booking hub to reserve their seat - removing barriers between exposure to the advertisement and making a purchase.

Robecta Ma, Vice President Marketing for America at Cathay Pacific Airways, says, "This particular initiative was borne out of the necessity to highlight our ground and in-flight experience to those who have not had access to our products. We have been experiencing a lot of success with VR in large-scale events and conventions, where people can interact with our brand in a captive environment."

Final Thoughts

VR technology is an exciting new field of development which presents many opportunities for savvy companies outside of the obvious videogame or entertainment industries. As the technology develops, we can expect to see more businesses following the lead of innovators such as Cathay Pacific and bringing VR technology to their customers in imaginative new ways.

The final word goes to Robecta Ma, Vice President Marketing for America at Cathay Pacific Airways.

"Even though the travel industry does embrace the benefits of VR as a means of enhancing a customer's brand experience, the technology is still in its inchoate phase. Hence, most brands are still approaching this in a cautious manner. In our case, we want to make the Cathay Pacific lounge and flight experience accessible to everyone via the usage of VR, especially to those who have not had a chance to fly on our airline. While there have been some really great destination focused videos, we haven't seen as many brands in the travel space fully embrace VR's potential. It remains to be an area of experimentation yet comes with limitless creativity."

You can hear Cathay Pacific's Vice President of Marketing for America, Robecta Ma, speak at Digital Travel 2018 in April/May at the Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa, Nevada.

Download the agenda today for more insights and information.

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