'Hello, I'm on a plane...' Phones are cleared for take-off
Virgin plans to be first British airline to allow mobile calls – just what you need at 35,000 feet
The relative peace of transatlantic travel came a step closer to being shattered yesterday as Virgin Atlantic announced plans to permit calls on board flights. Its long-haul journeys across the Atlantic could soon be accompanied by the irritating sound of ringtones and passengers bellowing their whereabouts to a caller at 35,000 feet.
The carrier becomes the first British airline to offer the service, joining a growing number of commercial fleets that have trialled technology with varying success. It was first unveiled by Emirates in 2006.
Virgin passengers flying between London and New York on the airline's new A330 Airbus will also be able to send and receive text messages, emails and have web access. However, only 10 people at a time will be able to use the facility because of the limited bandwidth. In-flight calls will also cost £1 a minute and texts 20p.
The service will not be permitted during take-off or landing and will also have to be switched off 250 miles before the aeroplane enters US airspace because of American laws.
Steve Griffiths, the chief operating officer at Virgin Atlantic, told the Daily Mail: "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 remind 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."
Calls will eventually be allowed on Virgin's fleet of Boeing 747s, which is having a £50m refurbishment. The company estimates that by the end of the year nearly 20 aircraft will provide the service.
In 2009, Ryanair became the first European airline to allow passengers to use mobiles in-flight, charging them £3 a minute. The service used a complicated satellite system and expensive receiver equipment rather than the traditional mobile network.
While Virgin's move will undoubtedly be welcomed by business travellers, others are less than impressed by the decision, with anti-noise campaigners branding the decision "crazy".
Val Weedon, of Noise Direct, said: "Noise is noise and the impact is no different in any situation. Noise is a trigger for stress. In such a confined space as an aircraft it could be very annoying. While we are not totally against it in principle, during certain parts of the trip, such as overnight when people want to rest, it should definitely not be allowed."
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Top 10 cheapest cities to visit, according to TripAdvisor
Iceland volcano: Travel agency has 'Volcano hotline' for dare-devil tourists who want to visit Bardarbunga if it erupts
Contactless payment donkey rides are a thing now
August Bank Holiday 2014: Five ways to make the most of it
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 4 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
£6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...
£17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
£23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...