Going on holiday? Soon you’ll be able to use your smartphone on the plane

by Dale Wright

All of us are used to switching our gadgets off when we board an aeroplane, but soon, we might be able to surf the internet as we fly.

Virgin Atlantic will soon be offering in-flight internet access via wifi, giving passengers the opportunity to stay in touch in the air. Smartphone addicts will also be able to send texts and make phone calls on their own phones – handy if your flight has been delayed, or you forgot to book a transfer before take-off. Using the internet on a plane isn’t entirely new, but this is the first time a British airline will offer it on a large scale.
virgin atlantic Going on holiday? Soon you’ll be able to use your smartphone on the plane

The service won’t be free, of course: you’ll have to pay for the credits you use, and like most in-flight services and products, it’s unlikely to be affordable for anything other than emergency calls. Business users will probably get some benefit, but don’t expect to stream your iTunes Match content or watch YouTube: the wifi speed will be about the same as the ancient GPRS access we used to use on our mobile phones.

Virgin Atlantic are installing the new system, run by AeroMobile, into the first class cabins in a brand new fleet of Airbus A330 planes which are expected to go into service at the end of this year. Another plane, the super-swish Boeing Dreamliner, will offer wifi throughout, although passengers who want to be the first to experience the super-plane will need to wait a couple more years. Both planes are also likely to offer USB charging ports so you can hook up your iPad and iPhone while tucking into your airline meal.

With added convenience comes added problems for holiday travel. Those cramped-up seats will be even less appealing when you’re sitting next to someone who won’t get off the phone. Perhaps some airlines will even start to charge more for ‘mobile free zones’.

Would you pay to use your gadgets on the plane?