Following a similar arrangement with American Airlines
announced last month, AirCell has now inked a deal Virgin America to bring air-to-ground wireless internet to all of its flights
sometime in 2008. In addition to letting passengers access the service through their personal Wi-Fi devices on flights, it will also be available through Virgin's RED in-flight entertainment system.
Customized for Virgin America, the system is anticipated to allow guests to connect to the internet with the AirCell Broadband Service, using either their Red seatback video screens or their own wifi enabled portable gaming devices, laptops, PDAs or Smartphones. As such, in addition to the many entertainment choices currently offered by Red™ guests will be able to check and send web-email from their seatbacks through Red's TALK -- the airline's onboard chat system -- using popular instant messaging services such as MSN, Google talk, Yahoo! Skype, and AIM.
Virgin has some pretty ambitious plans for in-flight interactivity, too. The airline will offer a fleet-wide social network where guests on a plane will not only be able to interact with passengers on their flight, but with passengers on any other Virgin America flight as well.
One bone of contention for in-flight connectivity has been voice calls, due to the noise and intrusive telephone ringing it could cause. Although the company claims users will be able to use “instant messaging services” such as Skype, it is most likely that its VoIP features will be blocked.