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Virgin WiFi

Now you can call from 32,000 feet

Virgin have announced that they now have WiFi on all services and are the first in Europe to offer this service across their fleet. (And Delta, across the Pond).

You can now stay connected at any time above 10,000 feet. The service is provided by Panasonic on the 787 and on other aircraft, Gogo. Fair play to Virgin, but what one would like to know is: Quanto Costa?

The prices vary from £4.99 to £14.99. (translation: £5 or £15) Virgin do say "from £2.99" (that is, 3 quid) though for £3.00 you get only a messaging pass for a whole flight on anything, save for a 787. Presumably, this means you can send and receive messages only.

On the 787, Virgin offer 40MB for £5.00 and £150MB for £15. To put that into something us mere folk can understand, for £5.00 (sorry, £4.99) you can send and receive emails happily (as long as no pictures are involved) or watch about 6 minutes' worth of YouTube. It does mean that you need to make sure all other apps and roaming is turned off as if not, 40MB will disappear before you can say: "Oh! Look! Wifi!".

It will also depend on the sort of smartphone you have, as some cellphones use a lot more data than others. Apple iphone users are likely to find their data disappearing much faster than Android users, so there may be an argument that says use an Android phone for business and just use Apple kit if you want to show off to your mates. *

150MB will last you for your emails and some light browsing as long as you are not using push mail (iPhone), notifications and other live widgets. Again, if you have or enable Flash (Android), 150MB will disappear fairly sharpish.

On the A330, A340 and 747 you get one hour for £5.00 (Tut! Sorry ... £4.99) and for £15.00 you get full flight access. This is an easier way to understand the costing as a time limit means that simple reference to a watch will be a concise guide. This also saves having to trawl through your devices' setting trying to make sure everything you do not need is turned off; not to mention, remembering to turn them all back on again, later.

Virgin do not say, on the 787, what happens if you go over the 150MB limit or on other aircraft, if the hour is consecutive or cumulative.

This does not cover the argument as to whether airlines should have any mobile connectivity in the first place. It is certainly bad enough on public transport having people shouting into their mobiles (cell phones) when the bulk of any conversation amounts to: "Hello! Can you hear me??" followed invariably by: "...Yes, I am on a train/ bus/ plane ..." (why do people think that is always even relevant?).

Airlines have seat back videos and entertainment in most classes these days, on anything that is going to take more than a few hours out of your life. One can understand, therefore, that if you are responsible for a multi-billion dollar enterprise, the need to stay in contact is relevant; but apart from that, one wonders if one is perhaps better off simply sitting back, relaxing and just eating those nuts ...

*Not all of which is Apple's fault. iPhones can use a lot more data than Android though that in part may be down to the iPhone having more things going on to engage the user. Again, though, (it can be argued) this may mean that Apple users tend to miss out on more of life than Android users....

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