Virgin Atlantic to let passengers on some flights use cellphones

What’s the first thing passengers do when they land? Turn on their cellphones and make a call.

Soon, passengers on some Virgin Atlantic flights won’t have to wait for the plane to land.

The British airline announced plans this week plans to allow passengers by the end of the year to make calls, send and receive text messages and emails, and get Web access on their cellphones on certain flights.

Virgin Atlantic is not the first airline to offer cellphone service. Emirate Airlines and Malaysia Airlines, among other foreign carriers, have been offering the service for years.


And Virgin Atlantic has already announced several limits.

Initially, the service on Virgin Atlantic will be available only for customers with 02 and Vodafone service, both British-based service providers. The airline said the system will limit connectivity to six users at any one time.

Federal regulators in the U.S. prohibit cellphone use on airborne planes, saying the calls may interfere with an aircraft’s navigation systems.

But a bigger issue may be trying to keep the peace in a confined airborne cabin with half of the passengers trying to get some rest while the other half are talking loudly into cellphones.

In a 2005 survey by the National Consumer League and the Assn. of Flight Attendants, 63% of airline passengers said they opposed cellphone use on planes.

Union leaders for flight attendants also say their job is stressful enough and they don’t want to referee arguments between passengers over loud cellphone calls.


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