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Virgin Atlantic Lets Passengers Make Calls From the Sky

On some Virgin Atlantic planes, you'll be able to phone home from 35,000 feet in the air.

Virgin Atlantic
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Virgin Atlantic

The airline has announced that it will become the first British airline to provide passengers the capability to make and receive phone calls during flights. Passengers also will be able to send and receive text messages, emails and have web access via GPRS.

The new service will be available in all cabins of the airline's new Airbus A330-300 aircraft and refitted Boeing 747s.

It will target business travelers and be limited to just six users 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," the airline said in a written statement.

By the end of 2012, the system will be available on nearly 20 Virgin Atlantic aircraft.

There will be some restrictions, however: Passengers can't use the service during take-off or landing or within about 250 miles from U.S. airspace.

For now, AeroMobile is available to customers with O2 and Vodafone network providers.

When in flight, international roaming costs will apply. Those will be set by the mobile provider.

Some industry analysts said having mobile service in-flight could worsen the cabin experience.

"At the very least, the airline will have to restrict times of day when passengers will be able to scream into their phones 'Can you hear me now?' at 40,000 feet, in order to not wake up fellow passengers on overnight flights," says George Hobica, president of AirfareWatchdog.com. "But you know what will happen — no one will listen. There will be screaming matches, glares, and probably fisticuffs."

Virgin Atlantic's chief operating officer Steve Griffiths told the U.K. Daily Mail: "We have listened to what customers want and connectivity in the air is always on the wish list."

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