"It's not the destination, it's the journey," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Or at least the Internet claims he did.) Now, if you poll the passengers in coach on any full flight that's likely been delayed for a few hours and has already run out of the good snacks, the majority would probably beg to differ. But I am not that majority, because sitting in an airplane at cruising altitude is my happy place.
As a travel writer, I spend—or used to spend—a lot of time in the air, and quite frankly, I enjoy every minute. If I don't have a deadline to meet, I happily keep my phone disconnected from Wi-Fi and spend the duration of my flight staring out the window, catching up on all the blockbuster films I've missed, sipping a glass of wine or two, and just generally enjoying life in a bubble at 39,000 feet. I find the lack of obligation on a flight utterly freeing.
So when I first saw the trailer for the new flight simulator video game Airplane Mode last November, I chuckled and thought to myself, "Now this is a game I'd like to play." The premise of Airplane Mode, designed by Hosni Auji and produced by AMC Games, is simple. You're an economy-class passenger on a six-hour flight from JFK in New York to Keflavik in Iceland, armed with an in-flight magazine, a seatback entertainment system, a smartphone, and a book, and the goal is to endure the flight in real-time. Yes, that's it. (There's also a 2.5-hour route from New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, for players who aren't keen on dedicating six hours to a virtual flight.) The game randomizes some typical in-flight events, from turbulence to crying babies to weather delays, making it all the more realistic.
Did I think the game was going to be the biggest hit of the year? Well, no, not particularly, but I did anticipate playing it anyway and having a good laugh. I even thought it might be fun to get super meta and play it while on a six-hour flight IRL. But then COVID-19 struck.
Reader, I am now counting down the minutes till the Airplane Mode's release this autumn—although, not literally, since a specific launch date has yet to be announced. I've officially been grounded for 170 days, and I currently spend my time reminiscing about my last flight, a transatlantic jaunt from Heathrow to JFK in Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic's new A350. *Swoon.* Since there's not much to look forward to in terms of traveling these days, I'm genuinely thrilled that I'll get to spend six straight hours pretending I'm on a plane sometime in the coming months. Consider my ticket booked, and expect a full review of my flight to follow.