Nervous flyers of the world had cause to celebrate this morning as Virgin flight VA9900 departed Sydney with 65 special guests on board (including Richard Branson, media and VIPs) to test a world first program.
Like any flight, guests were treated to an unsolicited hot flannel across the face. Unlike any other flight, Smiling Mind, a meditation app, led a—you guessed it—guided meditation at 30,000 feet.
This marked the world’s first “meditation flight”, one-upping Qantas, who earlier this year introduced their own inflight meditation service.
“Integrating mindfulness into our everyday lives is just as important as eating well and exercising regularly, and I am so excited to see Virgin Australia deeply embedding mindfulness into the workplace and onboard flights,” Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson said.
“Virgin Australia is very focused on supporting the mental health of its passengers and team members,” he continued, “And there are very few of us who haven’t been directly or indirectly impacted by anxiety.”
“We want to encourage more passengers to use their time flying with Virgin Australia to exercise their mind through meditations in the inflight entertainment system, and what better way to make this known than by holding the world’s first dedicated meditation flight.”
As reported by Travel Weekly, the airline has also announced a new way for nervous flyers, “To self-identify with the airline prior to travelling.” What does this mean for you? Well from early next year, you’ll be able to tell the airline you have “travel-related anxiety” before you fly (in the same way you can currently identify as vegetarian, and receive a different meal), “Leading to personalised communications in the lead up to their journey, and face-to-face interactions while onboard the aircraft,” (Travel Weekly).
Which is more dignified-telling the passenger next to you on the plane when you order a drink at 6:30 in the morning that you are, “on vacation” or “an extremely nervous flyer?” Asking for a friend…
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) 21 July 2018
More info will be released in the coming months, but for know, this is what we know: the new partnership gives all Virgin Australia passengers access to Smiling Mind guided meditations via the Inflight Entertainment System—hopefully reducing the stress and anxiety of air travel.
Virgin is also supporting the mental health of its staff by making the meditation app available via its internal health and wellbeing platform, Better Me. So far so good. But there are two #dangerous possibilities.
One: what if the mindfulness program is great, and the staff are so blissed out they fail to perform their usual duties (or worse: sleep throughout the flight)? Or two: the app really doesn’t work that well, the staff remain stressed, and the company has spent a lot of money for nothing.
Of course there may be a middle ground—but where’s the fun in talking about that?