Virgin Atlantic to Start Offering Cell Phone Service In-Flight - The UpStream

Virgin Atlantic to Start Offering Cell Phone Service In-Flight

posted Friday May 18, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Virgin Atlantic to Start Offering Cell Phone Service In-Flight

Virgin Atlantic has always been known to find new, creative ways to market and promote the brand. With the boss Sir Richard Branson leading the way (sometimes in his Zulu warrior costume), an occasional April Fool's joke will usually end up coming from his mind. More recently, the airline has started to offer ice cubes shaped like his head. Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway said it was so Branson could be with his guests "in spirit."

However, this week, the airline did something less comedic and a little more serious. For those flying on select Virgin Atlantic aircraft, you'll be able to do a little something special while coasting 30k+ feet in the air: call your friends.

Virgin Atlantic announced this week that it will be the first UK-based airline to allow their guests to make and take phone calls, text messages, emails and access the web, all while in flight. Existing Boeing 747s and the brand new Airbus A330-300 planes will be the first to get this new feature.

When you do something like this, anyone could imagine the problems that could arise, specifically, extremely loud and annoying passengers. Luckily, the airline has thought through all of the scenarios and has offered a solution. The new service is geared directly towards business people who are needing to do business in the air and it will only be available to six guests at a time.

The service is intended for use in exceptional situations, when passengers need to send an SMS, make a quick call, or access an e-mail on a Blackberry.

Aside from loving the BlackBerry plug, the service won't be cheap either. Reports are saying that it will cost you about $1.60 US per minute of voice or web surfing and about 20 cents per text message. The company has teamed up with AeroMobile to make all of this possible with their patented in-flight cell phone network. We should expect to see the service available on 20 aircraft by the end of this year.

The cost of making that call won't be the only thing to deter you or your potential annoying plane neighbor, either. Passengers will not be allowed to use the network during take-off or landing or when they are within 250 miles of US airspace due to FCC and FAA restrictions. To further curb the potential foreseeable problems, Virgin Atlantic will also restrict the times which passengers can use the service, as to not disturb the rest of the cabin.

Do you see this as just another problem with flying or as a great added benefit that you may use a few times when time is just not on your side and you're on a long flight overseas? COO Steve Griffith chimes in.

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!

He also went on to add that the service has been tested over the last few months and "has been positively received by customers." Maybe Virgin has got something here. The airline is usually tailored to business-oriented people to begin with and not to your average flyer. Additions like the longest in-flight bar and whispering coaches are what makes Virgin Atlantic a unique airline. Will this make you want to start or stop flying with them? Let us know in the comments section below.

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