In-Flight Cellphone Calls To Be Allowed On Virgin Atlantic Flights

inflight cell phone service to be offered on Virgin AtlanticPassengers on Virgin Atlantic will soon be able to make in-flight cellphone calls, send texts and browse the web on their way home from Europe, it was just announced. The new service is part of the airline’s upgrade to the Airbus A330, which will also provide expanded in-flight entertainment, USB ports and a very spiffy upper class. Cellphone service will initially be available only on London to New York flights, but will be expanded to more cities by the year’s end. There are a lot of caveats, however: you’ll need to be on a Vodafone or O2 network, only 10 calls will be allowed at one time and service won’t be cheap. Calls will cost 1 GBP per minute and texts 20p each. You’ll also still need to turn off your devices for takeoff and landing, and turn them off within 250 miles of US airspace, so no flight-long games of Words With Friends.

Gadling readers: would you use this service? Do you think it’s any improvement over the old-school in-flight phones? Or will it just be another amazing innovation that no one appreciates?

[Photo courtesy Flickr user Highways Agency]

Google spreads holiday cheer with complimentary Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi

Once again, Google is giving away some really nice holiday presents this season. Last year, the search giant provided free Wi-Fi at airports around the nation, and this year they are bringing their generosity to the skies by offering complimentary Wi-Fi on flight aboard AirTran, Delta and Virgin America flights. These three airlines have outfitted their entire fleet with Wi-Fi, powered by Gogo Inflight.

The promotion starts On November 20, and lasts till January 2 – which means flying during the holiday season won’t be that bad this year. Google is using the promotion to create some buzz for their Chrome Browser. If you haven’t tried Chrome, I can highly recommend taking it for a spin.

You can connect to Gogo Inflight using your Wi-Fi enabled laptop, PDA, smartphone or tablet – and you’ll enjoy broadband speeds as soon as the captain says you can safely use your device.

If you are flying one of the Gogo Inflight enabled airlines not included in the promotion, you can still get online – and prices start at just $4.95 for flights under and hour and a half. For the entire overview of pricing options, head on over to Gogo Inflight.

For more on the promotion, head on over to freeholidaywifi.com.

HasWifi.com answers a simple question – will my plane have inflight Wi-Fi?

Determining whether your next flight offers Wi-Fi isn’t that hard – most airline web sites have their own widget to help answer the question, but things can always be a bit easier. HasWiFi lets you enter your flight information, and instantly tells you whether you’ll be online for your flight, or whether you’ll need to suffer through another horrible inflight movie.

If you want to make life even easier, you can link the site with your TripIt account, and it’ll pull your upcoming flight information from their service, without having to look up flight numbers yourself.

Search results display the flight number, airplane type, destination and of course whether you’ll actually have Wi-Fi. The site also provides user feedback, in case the information from the airline turns out to be incorrect.

All in all, a very easy to use site. The content is simple enough to be viewed on a mobile phone, and the creator kept things nice and clean. So, before your next flight, head on over to HasWifi, and if you are lucky enough to be able to get online, don’t forget to create a Gogo Inflight account to make getting online even quicker.

Flying Wizz Air, European low-cost airline


I just flew with Wizz Air, a major budget airline in Europe whose name and stunts I had previously only snickered over. It turns out in addition to offering low fares across Europe, they are also the largest carrier in Hungary (at least according to Wizz, Malev Hungarian would beg to differ) and a major player in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. Last week I traveled to Bulgaria (look for some future Weekending posts soon) and decided to try to fly across the country from the Black Sea town of Varna to the capital city Sofia rather than spend another eight hours on a bus. As is often the case with budget carriers, Wizz has caught a fair amount of flack for their nickle-and-diming fare structure and customer service, so I was anxious to experience it first-hand.The booking process
The low-cost carrier advertises flights as low as 15 GBP from London to Poland before taxes and fees, and I found fares from Varna to Sofia starting at 78 Bulgarian (around $50 USD) plus a few bucks for taxes. Not too bad, a lot pricier than the bus but much faster. Enter the laundry list of service fees. First, you are hit up 5 Euros per passenger to use a credit card (only other options are European credit cards or bank transfers that aren’t possible for US travelers). Next, you are offered a bunch of services that might be useful for some (extra legroom, flexible booking, priority boarding, etc) but not integral to the flight. Then comes the big guns: baggage allowances. Whether I’m traveling for two days or two weeks, at maximum I pack a standard wheelie carry-on and a purse, and avoid checking bags whenever possible. Wizz allows just one piece free, up to 10 kg (22 pounds), and charges 15 to 60 Euros per bag depending if you select the option online, at the airport, or at the gate. Not wishing to be caught with a surprise charge at the airport, I opted to check one bag. Final tally: 117 Bulgarian leva per ticket or $76 USD, booked less than two weeks in advance.

Pre-departure
Haven’t even gotten to the airport and there’s another potential fee: flight check-in. It’s free if you do it online up to 7 days in advance AND print boarding passes, or 10 Euros if you wait until arriving at the airport or can’t find a printer. After entering your passport information and checking in online, your boarding passes are available as web documents or PDFs. I downloaded the PDFs and emailed to my hotel in Varna, who were kind enough to print, but boarding passes via email. Arriving at the airport, they will still check your documents, but my baggage was not scrutinized and I noticed several fellow passengers with more than one bag to carry on, so I may have been able to get away with a purse and a rollerboard.

In-flight experience
Seating on the flight is open, causing the usual every-man-for-himself rush at the gate, but inside the plane, seats are relatively comfy with snazzy purple leather seats. There is an excellent (and free!) in-flight magazine with great destination info and articles that made me want to move to Poland immediately. The Varna to Sofia flight was too short for the full food and beverage “service” (i.e. they didn’t wheel out the cart of stuff you pay for) but the usual drinks and snacks were available for purchase at typically high prices (2.50 Euros for water, 3 Euros for Cup Noodles, which is sort of a great flight food idea). Flight attendants were helpful and cheerful in the signature purple and hot pink colors.

All told, I’d fly Wizz again (especially to Poland), especially if I were near to one of their hubs. Fares are much lower than the competition (Bulgarian Air priced out at 211 leva for the same route) and if you stop looking at fares as inherently all-inclusive, the a la cart structure is actually refreshing and honest. There aren’t many perks and no in-flight movies or tv, but with most flights under 3 hours, you can get by. Airline experiences are all in the seat of the beholder, but with prices this low, a leather seat and free English-language reading material feels more luxe than low-cost.

Photo of the Day (06.07.10)

People like to gripe about airplane food. It’s been fodder for comedians (not all of them funny) for years. People complain about how it tastes. They bitch about it being too hot or too cold. It’s chewy. It’s difficult to cut with plastic cutlery. And, now, it just plain costs too much since airlines have stopped serving free meals. Oddly, though, I love airplane food. I enjoy how compartmentalized it is. How I’m eating a full meal nearly six miles above the surface of the Earth. How I get to put a huge chunk of cheese on one tiny cracker. That’s why I love this picture by Flickr user andreakw. There’s no judgment here. No hacky jokes about airplane food. Just a simple meal served six miles above the surface of the Earth. And, perhaps alarmingly, no chunks of cheese.

Why not share your favorite memories of airplane meals in the comments below?

Have a an amazing meal you enjoyed on the road? Or maybe just some delightul travel photos? Upload them to our Flickr pool and we use one for a Photo of the Day.