UAE: When I ‘became’ an Emirates flight attendant for a day

The experience was part of the brand new technology which uses virtual reality to create a photorealistic environment

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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A visitor tries out a VR experience at the Emirates Pavilion at Expo City on Thursday. (KT Photo: Neeraj Murali)
A visitor tries out a VR experience at the Emirates Pavilion at Expo City on Thursday. (KT Photo: Neeraj Murali)

Published: Fri 15 Dec 2023, 9:13 AM

Last updated: Mon 25 Dec 2023, 3:11 PM

As a young girl, I had often watched in amazement at the beautiful airhostesses as they walked through airports and brought me food (and sometimes toys) on a flight. I thought it was the best job in the world — to be able to travel all around the world.

On Thursday, I got to experience the nitty gritty nuances of being an airhostess, albeit virtually. This was at the Emirates Group’s newly unveiled innovation hub, Ebdaa. With VR glasses over my eyes and holding the controllers, I prepared coffee and handed out blankets with ease.

The experience was part of the brand new technology introduced by Emirates, called MIRA. The first of its kind in the aviation industry, MIRA is an XR platform that will revolutionize the employee experience from onboarding to learning, according to the group.

Prior to me doing it, I watched an Emirates staff demonstrate how the technology allowed them to practice doing various tasks required to complete their cabin crew training. From wheeling food trolleys down the aisle to pouring the right amount of drinks in the glasses, it gives crew a basic understanding of the tasks required of them.

Making coffee, Emirates style

My first task of the day was to make coffee. Pointing the controller at the coffee and tea cupboard, I took out the flask. It was slightly challenging to understand how the controllers work. Once you point at an item, it gets highlighted with a white silhouette. You then press the clicker to move it.

In the case of the flask, my task was to pick it up. So I pressed the clicker with my index finger and held it down to keep the flask in my hands. I put the flask under the water taps and poured some water on it. Just as demonstrated by the staff, I rinsed the flask and poured out the remaining water. Then, I filled the flask with hot water.

After that I opened another cupboard and took out the coffee sachet. This was quite challenging as the container with the coffee sachets was at the back of the cupboard. So I tiptoed and with the correct balance, I managed to fish out the sachets. I added them to the flask to prepare the coffee.

Transcending boundaries

Using the latest graphics engine to create a photorealistic environment and experience, MIRA is a seamless experience that is available on any device from anywhere in the world. According to an Emirates spokesperson, this will reduce the time needed for the company to onboard staff. “On an average, a cabin crew spends approximately two weeks between getting an offer letter and beginning their training,” he said. “With this technology, we can ensure that these two weeks can be utilized effectively and the staff can hit the ground running when they start.”

In the second iteration of this technology, haptic gloves will be added, which will give trainees the feeling of resistance when opening the cupboards and help them experience the weight of things they take. What is more, it will give cabin crew the real feel of being in an emergency situation of a fire or childbirth in air.

“No matter how many videos we show, it will never be able to mimic the real situation of a fire,” said the spokesperson. “However, using this technology, we can show the dimmed view due to smoke or how to deal with childbirth. This will ensure that the staff is more prepared should such a situation arise.”

As I was finishing up the training, a lapse of attention caused me to knock over a bottle of juice which in turn spilt my hot, freshly brewed coffee all over the floor. I realized that being a cabin crew is not just cool but also requires a lot of hard work. A big salute to these men and women who keep us happy and safe in the air.

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