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Icelandair revolutionises in-flight entertainment with a flying ovation at 35,000 feet

This September Icelandair pioneered a new form of in-flight entertainment; an immersive theatre production entitled ‘Ahead of Time’ to mark the airline’s 80th year.   Airline staff and actors starred in the production in the skies on a flight from London to New York. 

Birkir Hólm Guðnason, CEO at Icelandair, commented, “Throughout our 80 years, we’ve always put customer service at our heart and we’re pleased to pioneer a new form of entertainment and value-added service for passengers. We responded to the research findings with the launch or Stopover Pass which aims to transform wasted time whilst travelling into time well-travelled.”

The cast engaged with the audience from arrival at Heathrow to touchdown in JFK. This one of a kind event took place over 11 hours and across three countries, using the transatlantic journey as an unique stage for a passport to performance.  

·       Icelandair delivered a show stopping performance that put staff at the heart of unique in-flight entertainment and proved that the journey is as important as the destination
·       The three-act immersive performance, ‘Ahead of Time’ was directed by Gideon Reeling and took place on an 11-hour flight from Heathrow to JFK via Iceland
·       The plot took inspiration from the airline’s progressive philosophy across their 80-year history, championing female empowerment and achievement
·       The ‘Opening Flight’ marked the start of Stopover Pass, a free performances series for passengers starring Icelandair staff alongside Icelandic talent
·       Launched in response to a greater demand from consumers for both better customer service and more original in-flight entertainment with a human touch
·       Passengers can now transform their boarding pass into a Stopover Pass for free: icelandair.us/stopover-pass  

To help realise this impressive production, the airline partnered with immersive theatre experts Gideon Reeling. In celebration of Icelandair’s 80th anniversary the plot line championed the airline’s history as pioneers of modern day travel and drew inspiration from their rich history. Lead character Edda took the audience on an inspiring and entertaining journey through time, mirroring the airline’s progressive and forward-thinking philosophy with themes of female empowerment and equality. 

·       1915, Iceland gave women the right to vote, becoming one of the first countries to do so
·       1937, Icelandair traces its roots back to this year when fledgling airline, Flugfélag Akureyrar, was founded at Akureyri on the north coast of Iceland  
·       In 1985, Icelandair hired the first female pilot, Sigríôur Einarsdóttir
·       In 1989, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir became the world’s first democratically elected female president and named Icelandair’s first Boeing 737-400
·       Women’s rights day 1999 – An all-female crew flew one of Icelandair’s aircraft for the first time

Travelling through time guests were immersed into different eras across 80 years and beyond. Passengers experienced life before the internet, providing an understanding of flight bookings prior to the digital age - they were written on cards and stored in a shoebox! Audience members were also treated to a menu inspired from the 1950’s, a safety demonstration given by an air hostess from the swinging sixties, a modern ballet performance at the boarding gate and even serenaded by a farmer from 1937 singing an Icelandic folk song. A pilot announcement left them musing the possibilities of future air travel, with moon landings on the horizon. Guests were also given a personal message of empowerment to take away.

Kolbrún Aðalbjörg Hjartardóttir, playing Edda, commented, “Preparing for this performance has been unbelievable. I am proud to be able to be showcase my country’s history and be part of something truly inspirational to others.”

In an innovative approach to customer service, Icelandair ran Stage School training, directed by Gideon Reeling, to add immersive theatre skills to their staff’s repertoire. The theatre experts also led the creative direction and production of the performance including rehearsals, audio experience, menu development and sourcing or re-creation of archive props and period costumes.

Kate Hargreaves, Founder of Gideon Reeling, commented, “The magnitude of the challenge to pull off this performance made the project even more special. The hard work that has gone on behind the scenes has culminated in an amazing spectacle. The Icelandair staff have been fantastic and their attitude and energy have helped make it a great success.”

Icelandair’s history demonstrates their commitment to passengers and shows how they’ve continued to fly in the face of adversity. This is exemplified by them continuing to fly whilst other airlines stayed grounded following the impact of the volcanic ash cloud thrown up from Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010.

  ‘Ahead of Time’ is the first in the Stopover Pass series of free performances for Icelandair passengers, being staged in celebration of their 80th year. This was announced following research, which revealed passengers are now demanding better customer service and more unique entertainment with a human touch; Icelandair has set about serving both in style. 

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