Should passengers be permitted to chat on cell phones during flights? Virgin Atlantic thinks so. The airline announced that it will let flyers make in-flight phone calls in plane cabins, where, undoubtedly, passengers seated mere inches from one another will be forced to hear the minutiae of nearby conversations.
According to a press release from the airline, fliers on A330 Airbus planes operated by Virgin will be able to use cell phones in the air, to text or talk. And if all goes as planned, Virgin will offer the service on as many as 20 planes by the end of the year.
The airline has partnered with AeroMobile to set up in-flight cell phone networks that will allow passengers to connect with those on the ground. However, "The service is intended for use in exceptional situations, when passengers need to send an SMS, make a quick call, or access an email on a Blackberry," says the press release. Only six users will be able to connect at the same time on each flight.
Passengers won't be able to make calls during take-off or landing, either. And, since use of cell phones on commercial flights is prohibited by law in the U.S., no one will be permitted to dial up within 250 miles of U.S. airspace.
As is the case with most in-air perks, the service will cost you. Virgin will charge £1 (about $1.60; see XE.com for current exchange rates) a minute for phone calls and 20 pence per text, reports The Daily Mail.
Is a quick call worth the cost? It probably depends on what you have to say. Virgin Atlantic's Chief Operating Officer Steve Griffiths told the Mail:
Many people will have experienced that moment when you're about to take off on a 10-hour flight and you need to send an important message to the office, or even reminding a family member to feed the cat! It's also quite fun to call home and say "Guess where I am." Not many people would think you're traveling at 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.
Although someone is bound to get annoyed when stuck inadvertently listening to a one-sided conversation about cat food and guessing games, right? Maybe not. According to the airline's press release:
The new service has undergone on board tests over the last few months and has been positively received by customers.
-- Caroline Costello