NEW YORK (AP) — The phrase "Can you hear me now" has entered the jet age.
Passengers on certain Virgin Atlantic flights are now able to use their cell phones to make and receive phone calls at 35,000 feet, the airline announced Tuesday.
The British airline's new service could be a blessing for business travelers who want to stay connected during eight-hour flights across the ocean. It could also be a nightmare for the passenger sitting next to them.
"I suspect most passengers, like myself, would prefer not to listen to somebody on the phone for what might be hours," said airline analyst Robert Mann.
Only six passengers at a time will be able to use the system, which the airline says is intended "for use in exceptional situations." Passengers will be able to send text messages, make a call or access email on mobile devices. The airline won't charge extra for the service but cell phone users will be charged their carrier's international roaming rates.
Initially, the service — which utilizes a satellite connection — will only be available for customers of European cell phone providers O2 and Vodafone and U.S. carrier T-Mobile.
The service debuted Tuesday on the airline's new Airbus A330-300 planes flying between New York and London. It will expand to nearly 20 planes by year-end, from a handful now.
Dubai-based Emirates became the first carrier to allow passengers to use their personal cell phones back in 2008. A handful of other airlines in the Middle East including Oman Air and Royal Jordanian now have similar services.
Passengers today already wrestle for control of the armrest and the few precious inches of personal space they have. It isn't clear how the flying public will react to phone calls mid-flight.
George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog, says Virgin will have to restrict times of day when passengers can make calls in order to not wake up fellow passengers on overnight flights.
"But you know what will happen, no one will listen. There will be screaming matches, glares, and probably fisticuffs," he said in a statement. "I for one would gladly choose an airline that bans inflight yakking over one that allows it."
The New York-London route is very lucrative and competitive.
British Airways and American Airlines have teamed up to offer up to 16 daily flights between the two cities. Virgin only offers five a day, with plans to soon expand to six.
Asked how his airline can compete, CEO Steve Ridgway told The Associated Press last week: "By offering better service."
This new phone service is part of a larger $160 million dollar upgrade of the airline's Upper Class cabin, although it will be also available to passengers in coach. Calls are not permitted during take-off or landing or within 250 miles of U.S. airspace.
Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, which prompted the closure of many federal operations, such as national parks and monuments and that included the shutdown of Cabrillo National Monument.
Thousands of people marched through downtown San Diego and San Marcos in the second annual Women's March Saturday. The San Diego event began at 10 a.m. at the downtown Waterfront Park on Pacific Highway, while the North County event began at 11 a.m. at Palomar College.
Thousands of people marched through downtown San Diego and San Marcos in the second annual Women's March Saturday. The San Diego event began at 10 a.m. at the downtown Waterfront Park on Pacific Highway, while the North County event began at 11 a.m. at Palomar College. The two marches were held in conjunction with other marches across the country.
Chilly temperatures and scattered showers started the weekend. Temperatures at the coast and inland communities hovered around 60 degrees with some areas of San Diego County receiving rain during the morning hours.
A transient accused of fatally stabbing a man after they got into an argument near a 7-Eleven store in Poway pleaded not guilty Friday to a murder charge.
Coastal rail closures could complicate the commute for the thousands of people expected at Women's Marches set for downtown San Diego and San Marcos Saturday, though additional transit options are being made available.
A man arrested in the doctor's lounge at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa after claiming to be an anesthesiologist pleaded not guilty Friday to a felony charge of treating the sick without a certificate.
People who bought new homes in Otay Ranch's Village of Escaya can start moving in Friday - later than planned but after the developer took steps to address methane found at the site.
Recent assaults by tactical teams on prototypes of President Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico found their imposing heights should stop border crossers, The Associated Press has learned, a finding that’s likely to please security hawks but raise concerns about costs and environmental damage.
Two of the region's largest federal enterprises, military bases and border patrol, are unlikely to face major disruptions in the event of a looming government shutdown that experts say likely is to occur at midnight.