According to Virgin Atlantic’s website, passengers will soon be able to make cell phone calls in the air – or they can if they’re flying the airline’s Airbus A330 on the London-New York route.
The service is provided by Aeromobile, an inflight mobile phone business which uses satellite technology so callers are covered world-wide (though there may be an occasional dropped call, just as there is on the ground).
FAQs: Cell Phone Calls on Virgin Atlantic
Here are some of the more common questions, with answers provided by Virgin:
Q: Is it safe?
Virgin: “Don’t worry, we wouldn’t have installed it if it wasn’t. The science behind it is that the aircraft is now fitted with new technology, which means when you switch on your phone, it connects to the Aeromobile network using its lowest settings. This takes away all the risk of lots of different phones operating at different levels, which is the thing that interferes with our on board electronics.”
Q: Is it expensive?
Virgin: “There aren’t any hidden costs. You’ll find the call listed on your phone bill as normal. The costs will be similar to normal roaming charges.” [Editor's note: charges have been estimated as starting at roughly $1.50 per minute, and up.]
Q: Do I need a special phone?
Virgin: “Only phones that have international roaming can connect to this service.”
Q: When can I use it on the plane?
Virgin: “Safety regulations still require that all phones are turned off for taxi, take-off and landing. Your cabin crew will let you know when the system is ready to be used. It’s usually once we reach cruising height.”
Q: Cell phones are still banned in U.S. airspace, right?
Virgin: “Some countries like the USA don’t allow mobile phone use in their air space. In these cases, the system will automatically switch off.”
Q: Will I be driven crazy by the conversations of fellow passengers?
The Virgin website does not specifically address this concern but a news story notes that due to bandwidth limitations, only about 10 people will be able to make calls at the same time.
Cell Phone Calls on Planes: Love Them, Hate Them
Business travellers and others are expected to enjoy the new phone service, but it has been decidedly controversial in the past. However, one internet commenter may have spoken for many by when he exclaimed, “This is utter madness.”
More Virgin Atlantic Phone Service Coming
According to The Daily Mail, by year’s end, nearly 20 other Virgin Atlantic planes including refurbished 747s will also feature cell phone service on board, flying to a variety of destinations.
Besides calls, those who use the Aeromobile service will be able to send and receive text messages and emails as well as access the internet.