Virgin Atlantic to Allow In-Flight Cellphone Calls

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Talk about long distance. Virgin Atlantic has announced that it’s letting customers make calls with their own cellphones — provided they’re on the airline’s new Airbus A330 flying between London and New York.

Yes, you’ll feel just like Sir Richard Branson, making cellphone calls from the sky like some kind of big shot. According to the Daily Mail, the service will expanded to about 20 planes in Virgin Atlantic’s fleet by the end of 2012.

You’ll still have to turn off your phone during take-off and landing, plus American law says phones must be turned off within 250 miles of U.S. airspace. After that you’re in the clear, but a call will cost about the same as an international roaming call — that is to say, a lot: £1 (around $1.60) per minute – and you’ll need an O2- or Vodafone-compatible handset.

Still, the service could prove very valuable to business travelers who can’t afford to miss calls, not to mention neurotic travelers who want to check with home to see if they left the oven on. Passengers will also be able to send and receive text messages, as well as browse the web (slowly) using AeroMobile’s GPRS data.

The new service is all part of a £100 million ($161 million) upgrade to the Airbus A330, which, according to the The Telegraph, includes a new upper class cabin, improved touchscreens for the in-flight entertainment and USB ports for charging devices.

One caveat: If you want to make a phone call, you might have to fight for it. Virgin Atlantic says that due to limited bandwidth, only 10 people will be able to make calls at the same time.

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