updated 04:15 pm EDT, Wed June 16, 2010
Virgin Atlantic bringing in-flight phone, data
Virgin Atlantic and Panasonic Avionics have partnered to bring Internet access to passengers in flight. The deal is worth more than $70 million and will bring Panasonic's eX2 in-flight entertainment and eXPhone products into Virgin Atlantic's A330 planes. Other aircraft will be added in the future. The deal will let passengers place calls, and send and receive text messages as well as e-mails from their own smartphones.
Panasonic Avionics uses GSM phone partner AeroMobile to provide the network. Panasonic's eX3 system lets passengers rate the onboard films, read comments and reviews. Passengers can also search from about 300 hours of movies, music and TV shows and save a playlist to view during the flight.
Premium Economy and Upper Class passengers will also have the option of plugging their own mobile devices into the seat-back screens to view personal music, videos, documents or photos. USB ports for viewing content will also be in all seats.
The first ten A330s equipped with the system are due to arrive in February 2011. The A330s can seat 313 passengers and serve international routes. Any associated costs for passengers, if they apply, haven't yet been announced.