Flying between London and New York aboard Virgin's (Virgin Atlantic) new A330 Airbus just got more swankier, as the airline became the first of its in kind in Britain to permit calls on board flights. And calls are not all that you can do, whilst flying. The Daily Mail now confirms that this system has been put in place keeping in mind needs of passengers, (especially business travelers who need to keep in touch with office, or those passengers who urgently need to send a message home) flying between London and New York aboard Virgin's new A330 Airbus can in addition to making calls, send and/or receive text messages, exchange emails and have web access via GPRS. On this project, Virgin Atlantic has been partnered by AeroMobile, which is part-owned by Panasonic.
Sending a text message aboard the flight would cost a passenger 20p, while making a call would cost them £1 per minute. Those availing the aboard flight calls, text messages service will be billed for the international roaming charges and the service is currently offered to customers with 02 or Vodafone networks. The report further adds – “The system offers the equivalent of having a telecomms base station on the aircraft – called picocell. It's new British designed technology that doesn't interfere with the avionics.” Quoting Steve Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, the report states, “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 travelling at 35,000ft above the Atlantic Ocean.”
Talk aboard a Virgin Atlantic
Understandably, since a move as such is novelty, there are a certain limitations to its usage. The report further adds that the facility to access Internet will be made available throughout the cabin, and it will be sans any restrictions on as to when one can avail of the facility. However, that is not without the limited bandwidth downer, which is there presently that will limit the number of people who would be able to make calls simultaneously to ten. The service, keeping in-line with American laws has to be turned off around 250 miles from U.S airspace, also it cannot be used during the time of take-off or landing.
Virgin Atlantic, reportedly is also in plans of introducing this feature aboard their Boeing 747 planes, which are currently going through a £50 million refurbishment, and by 2012, as many as 20 aircrafts will come with this feature. The report states that the decision to introduce this new feature comes as the airline officially the Airbus A330-300, their new aircraft – part of a £100m investment. The Airbus A330-300 features “a redesigned First Class cabin with a ‘technology hub’ to connect a smart phone, USB or tablet device.“