• Call, text, surf: Virgin Atlantic to fit aircraft with AeroMobile technology

    One of my favorite parts of flying is the unique element of relaxation. Despite the occasional bout of turbulence or unhappy toddler, flying provides hours of uninterrupted quiet and the opportunity to read, catch-up on emails or just decompress.

    The overall flying experience may change in the coming months as one airline, Virgin Atlantic, has launched plans for new onboard mobile phone service. While passengers will not be allowed to make calls during take-off and landing, they will be able to make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages and access email and the Internet throughout the rest of their flight.

    man on mobile phoneWhile we’re all accustomed to the strictly-enforced no cell phone rule in-flight, Virgin Atlantic will be the first carrier in a potentially long line of other carriers to add full mobile service to its in-flight experience. Virgin Atlantic announced in May that it will have 20 aircraft fitted with the AeroMobile technology by the end of this year. (Side note: rules in the United States from the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration prohibit the use of cell phones on planes in the United States, so phones will have to be turned off once the plane is within 250 miles of U.S. airspace.)

    Virgin Atlantic believes that connectivity in the air is a top priority for business travelers, and I have to agree. Even a short domestic flight can become productive work time when Internet access is available, but this functionality is already becoming standard across large carriers.

    The ability to make and receive phone calls opens up new opportunities for travelers to stay connected in the air, but the idea of a peaceful flight with this new functionality will be severely threatened. Numerous travelers already disregard flying etiquette on a regular basis, so can you imagine how in-flight cell phone service could impact your flying experience? Envision sitting next to a loud talker on an hour-long conference call in the middle of a long-haul flight, or picture half of the plane gabbing away with every contact in their phone throughout the duration of the flight.

    Perhaps airlines could ramp up their in-flight mobile capabilities by providing Internet access and functionality to send and receive text messages for free without allowing passengers the opportunity to make phone calls. Could you deal with a noisy flight for the opportunity to make a personal call or dial-in to an important conference call?

One Responseso far.

  1. Andrew says:

    Most airlines already offer onboard wifi at a nominal cost. Pair that with wifi enabled communication apps, like Skype of Vonage for mobile phones, the ability for phone calls are already possible. Simply put your phone in airplane mode and make phone calls over wifi. And phone calls in air aren’t really new either. Remember back in the 90s when airlines had phones attached to the back of seats? All it took was a swipe of a credit card and for the cost of 1 unborn child per minute, you could be talking away…