August 8, 2006
Virgin Tries Text Cure for In-Flight Boredom
LONDON (Reuters) - First there were the movies, masseurs and meditation programs, but Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways (VA.UL) says it has found a new answer to beating the boredom on long flights.
The London-based airline said on Tuesday it planned to introduce the world's first in-flight texting service, which will allow passengers to have questions answered on any topic at 35,000 feet.Passengers will be able to text questions from their seat-back television screens to an existing land-based text answer service which promises to answer any question within minutes.
"It's a great way to ask for a recommended bar in New York, what's the best way to get over jet-lag, or what's the best way to chat up the cabin crew," a Virgin spokeswoman said.
Airlines globally are scrambling to find new ways of increasing non-ticket sales and getting more passengers onto planes with the promise of more luxurious and fun ways to pass the time in the air.
However, texting mates from your own mobile phone is still some way off. Air France KLM (AIRF.PA) is running a trial of technology that will enable passengers to use their mobile phones while flying from next year.
Low-cost carriers like Ryanair (RYA.I) plan to introduce in-flight gambling to earn extra passenger dollars and hopes the use of mobile phones on planes will eventually boost its coffers.
(Additional reporting by BenoÃ®´ Van Overstraeten in Paris)