The experience is truly immersive; pilots can see other planes, respond to air traffic control, and see weather conditions at a glance.
Some airlines are so advanced they pay their pilots a virtual salary.
They try to replicate the types of aircraft used, hubs and routes offered, and branding of their namesake.
While there have been copyright disputes in the past, most real airlines have allowed their virtual counterpart to flourish.
With the proliferation of virtual airlines, pilots can choose from among several networks such as Virtual Skies, VATSIM or IVAO.