updated 06:54 pm EDT, Thu May 17, 2012
Virgin Atlantic allows cell calls between London and New York
Virgin Atlantic is the first British airline to offer in-flight mobile phone calls, text, and data usage. The service powered by AeroMobile will start being used on flights from London to New York, but will expand to 17 planes on at least ten routes by December. Competing airline British Airways already allows passengers to text and go online whilst mid-flight between London and New York, but does not allow for in-flight calls to take place.
Virgin Atlantic will be charging customers at around normal international roaming rates for all three aspects of the service, however Federal Aviation Authority restrictions forbid its use during takeoff or landing, and US laws force the service to be turned off 250 miles away from US airspace.
The FAA promised in March that it would look at the rules relating to in-cabin devices during mid-flight, takeoff, and landing. Current testing methodology requires that every version of a device would have to be tested in a flight without passengers. Taking into account the number of devices that would have to be tested, this could potentially interfere with other flights and be at a prohibitive cost to manufacturers.