Airports are stress hubs. Lengthy queues for security checks, $6 coffees, rushes and delays, and dealing with too many people with too much luggage.

Once on the plane, it gets worse: the armrest hogs, the chair recliners and the general lack of personal space – not to mention fears of flying.

Perhaps we should spend our in-flight time – habitually reserved for napping, reading or watching movies – in meditation.

At least that’s what Sir Richard Branson believes.

On Thursday the Virgin founder hosted 65 special guests on what Virgin Australia dubbed the world’s first meditation flight.


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The flight in and out of Sydney was in partnership with Smiling Mind, which will offer guided meditations on all Virgin Australia domestic and international flights through the Inflight Entertainment System app.

Sir Richard hopes in-flight meditation will show how seriously his company takes mental health, while helping people to foster a new, life-long passion for the practice.

‘Training our mind is just as important as training our bodies,’ he told the passengers on Thursday’s hour-long flight.

‘There are very few of us who haven’t been directly or indirectly impacted by anxiety. We want to encourage more passengers to use their time flying with Virgin Australia to exercise their minds through meditations.’

Sure enough, the experience at 30,000 feet proved to be wondrous. It may have been the hum of the engines, or the feeling that I had nowhere to be or nothing to do, but the guided meditation brought awareness to my body and calmed my mind. Afterwards, I took in the view of Sydney’s cloudy skies in a lot greater detail than I would have done.

I can see how the experience could help passengers anxious about their journey to relax, or simply help people find a moment of calm in their day.

I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it.

‘During the flight there’s usually so much going on, there are so many sounds, but meditating really just lets you unwind and not focus on the things that may make you anxious,’ said my neighbour Jamie.

‘The meditation was beautiful, so calming,’ added Jenna. ‘It would definitely help you wind down, which would be especially useful on a long-haul flight when you’re dealing with time differences and you need to get some sleep. I feel really refreshed.’

Dr Addie Wootten, CEO of Smiling Mind, says meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand, and both are fantastic tools to combat travel-related stress.

‘Travelling is notoriously stressful. When we get on the plane it’s often the first time that we actually stop for the day, and this is a great opportunity to look after ourselves,’ Dr Wootten told AAP.

‘Meditation gives people a chance to tune into themselves, to relax, train the brain and build those mindfulness muscles so they can take that sense of calm and clarity into their day.’