Virgin Atlantic passengers will no longer have to stop their calls short just because they’re in the air – the airline has announced the launch of in-flight mobile phone calls, texts and web access.
The company will become the first airline in the UK to offer the service, which will initially be offered on Virgin’s new Airbus A330 planes from London to New York.
The service will then be rolled out across other areas of the network, with 17 planes on at least ten routes benefitting from the scheme by the end of the year.
The in-flight mobile calling technology has been made possible by Panasonic-owned AeroMobile, which will charge travellers the equivalent of standard roaming rates.
British Airways started the move towards in-flight communication, by offering passengers in-flight texts on a single route between London City Airport and New York. However, the service does not extend to in-flight mobile phone calls.
The services offered by both BA and Virgin Atlantic are not permitted during take-off or landing, and US law states that they must be switched off when flights are 250 miles from US airspace.
According to a poll conducted by The Telegraph, 30.59 per cent of travellers voted in favour of the scheme, while 69.41 per cent said they felt that in-flight mobile calls were not a good idea.
Steve Griffiths, Virgin Atlantic’s chief operating officer, said that he expects full WiFi to be to be available on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which should be in service by the end of 2014.
He said that the airline is “actively looking at what customers want, rather than simply installing technology.”
He added: “We need to make sure users actually make use of a service so that it’s commercially sensible for us to invest. Changes to the restrictions on when gadgets can be used onboard are also expected.”
Airlines such as Qantas, Emirates and Lufthansa form part of the nine foreign carriers that already offer AeroMobile.