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.