As a frequent business traveler – actually a little less frequent these days – flying is seldom fun. I’m not the kind who likes to make small talk with the passengers around me, and watching the in-flight movie on a lousy six-inch 4×3 screen is not my idea of entertainment. And listening to other passengers talk turns even a short flight into an epic journey to the most inner circle of hell. Therefore I have mixed feelings about the idea of in-flight use of mobile phones.
On the one hand I could catch up on calls, and gab it up with friends to make the time pass. Of course I’d hate to have to ever be seated next to a guy like me! But the newly announced deal between Virgin America and AirCell sounds interesting. This will allow guests onboard Virgin America’s newest airline to access the Internet through their Wi-Fi enabled devices, including gaming devices, laptops PDAs and Smartphones; or through the Red In-flight Entertainment system in every seat. Considering that I was told to turn off my Treo on a recent flight, even though the phone functionality was already off, this is enough to make me jump from my normal carriers.
OK, so you can’t make calls – which is actually a good thing – but you can check and send Web e-mail through Red’s TALK, and use popular instant messaging services such as MSN, Google talk, Yahoo!, Skype and AIM/
“We believe that broadband connectivity on our planes will help enhance the inflight experience for our guests,” said Charles Ogilvie, Virgin America’s Director of Inflight Entertainment & Partnerships. “Whether it’s IMing with your friends, updating your blog, getting a stock quote, sending photos from your trip to friends, watching a movie or sending a work email, we plan to make it all available on a Virgin America plane.”
This service will be up and running next year on select Virgin American flights. Let’s see what the other carriers have to say about this feature.