A virtual airline is an organization of flight enthusiasts who band together to create a virtual representation of an airline, complete with staffers from administration to pilots. Some virtual airlines are based on real-world airlines, including notable and well-known commercial carriers. Others are entirely fictional, developed from the ground up by the founding members. The level of realism and complexity varies depending on the organization, its members, and their own goals.
Virtual airlines are among the oldest of online gaming communities. As more and more computer users started accessing the Internet, a number of communities of people with similar interests began to arise. These included groups of flight simulator users who exchanged advice, information, and ideas on web forums. Some of these forums later developed into virtual airlines. In other cases, airlines were started from scratch to attract entirely new users. New virtual airlines are constantly being founded and some become code-sharing partners with older, more established airlines, exactly like airlines in the real world.
Some characteristics of a virtual airline include an organized management hierarchy, the use of a livery that users can apply to aircraft in their own flight simulators, forums for meeting up with fellow members of the airline, and fixed flight schedules. Virtual airlines may use routes of an existing commercial airline or develop their own. Users can also engage in multi-player interactions with each other to more closely approximate real world experiences.
Members of a virtual airline usually have their own call signs, and work their way up through the rankings just like people working for a real airline. Some virtual airlines enable chat functions, allowing people to use voice or text chatting to communicate while they are immersed in game. Players may also meet up in the real world for conventions and other events.
Like many other online communities, a virtual airline provides an area for interaction with people who have similar interests. People can become deeply immersed in the world created by the community and some virtual airlines have even won awards for their realism, as well as recognition from the real-world airlines they model themselves on.
People interested in exploring virtual airlines can do a search for “virtual airline” in their favorite search engine to pull up a list of online communities. Rules for membership vary, depending on the airline, and the site usually lists the flight simulators used by members, standards for membership, and other information that people may find valuable to have.