WiFi, cell phones: Connecting on international flights

Phone for you: Virgin Atlantic Airways is introducing cell phone service on board.

By Mark Chesnut

It may be getting harder to forget about work when you fly.

In early 2013, Delta Air Lines will begin offering in-flight Internet service on its long-haul international fleet of more than 150 aircraft. The expanded WiFi service—which business travelers will surely use to stay up-to-date with emails—will use satellites to provide coverage internationally. The carrier already offers air-to-ground Internet connections on domestic U.S. flights, provided by Gogo.

And that’s not all on the international front. Virgin Atlantic this year announced plans to allow in-flight cell phone use on 13 of its aircraft by the end of 2012. New technology, according to the airline, connects to the company’s network at its lowest settings, to avoid interfering with onboard electronics. Any cell phone activated for international roaming should work on board. (Virgin America, which is a separate company based in San Francisco, has both WiFi and standard power plugs on all 50 of its aircraft for domestic U.S. flights.)

We can expect these international inflight connections to increase on more airlines. Gogo, one of the biggest players in the world of inflight wireless Internet connections, this year secured $135 million that it will use to make the switch from ground towers to satellite networks, which will allow the company to offer service to planes flying overseas.

In addition, Boingo, another big Internet provider, has teamed up this year with Germany’s Deutsche Telekom to provide WiFi on Lufthansa flights. Lufthansa’s FlyNet service is available on many North Atlantic flights as well as flights to the Middle East, South America, Japan and Korea (with the exception of Chinese airspace). One important note: Lufthansa has disabled the ability to make mobile phone calls “in response to the wishes of a majority of our customers,” according to the company. Some conversations, apparently, can still wait until after landing.

WiFi, cell phones: Connecting on international flights ,


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