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Icelandair introduces introverts' worst nightmare: Inescapable interactive theater

Run while you still can (Photo: Alexander Klein/Getty Images)

Picture a forced conversation with a well-meaning Lyft driver. Or a chatty hairdresser. Or an overly inquisitive seatmate on a cross-country flight. How does that make you feel? Does it make your animal brain light up with panic and your stomach go cold? Then you’re going to absolutely hate this NBC News story about Icelandair’s recent declaration of war against people who would really prefer to just sit in comfortable silence.

You ready? Here goes: Last week, the company tried out a new form of in-flight entertainment, an 11-hour immersive theater production, on a flight from London to New York. Worse still, pilots, cabin crew, and other airline employees were in on the painfully earnest joke, posing as kooky characters in the airline’s so-called “Ahead In Time” live performance alongside professional actors. Brace yourselves:

Passengers met and had an opportunity to interact with Maria, dressed in a stylish suit from the 1950s, who said she’d be flying the plane; Richie and Cynthia, hippies from the 1960s who met on the road and were hoping to get to Woodstock; Alex, an exuberant, if disorganized, backpacker from the 1990s in search of his passport; and numerous grandchildren and other far-flung relatives of Edda Johnson, a world traveler and former Icelandair flight attendant who had invited everyone to her birthday party but (spoiler alert) was too busy traveling the world to show up.


The performances, described by NBC News as “entertaining, story-filled, one-on-one encounters,” didn’t just take place on the plane itself. The bombardment of paying customers with the Tony And Tina’s Wedding of their nightmares continued on a layover in Reykjavik, and, most horrifying of all, culminated in “a few sing-a-longs.” This inescapable forced merriment was Icelandair’s wildly overblown response to a recent, U.K.-based study that came to the startlingly obvious conclusion that air travel is boring. “Our program aims to transform wasted time while traveling into time well-traveled,” Icelandair CEO Birkir Hólm Guðnason says. “We’re pleased to pioneer a new form of entertainment and value-added service for passengers.”

Personally, we’d rather watch muted Young Sheldon promos.

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