Airline To Link Up

woman plane internet virgin
AP (file)
Coffee? Tea? E-mail?

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. said Monday it will be the first airline to offer passengers access to the Internet and e-mail from every seat on its aircraft.

Virgin, in partnership with Tenzing Communications, Inc., will enable passengers to tap into selected sites on the worldwide Web and to send or receive e-mail from their own laptop computers. Alternatively, passengers will be able to send text messages using their seat-back television screens, which also will have access to Web sites.

The service, to begin later this year, will be provided on a pay-as-you-go basis estimated to cost "a couple of dollars" for each e-mail message. Passengers could also pay a flat fee and communicate by e-mail for the duration of their flight, Virgin said.

Internet access would be limited to 10-20 Web sites, including some for news, sports and children's entertainment. Access to the sites would be free, whether from a seat-back TV unit or a laptop computer, the airline said.

Although other airlines are starting also to offer Internet access, Virgin said it will be the first to provide the access to customers regardless of what class they are flying in. Passengers would pay by credit card.

The in-flight system designed by Tenzing would use the aircraft's satellite communications equipment and an on-board server, which would refresh its content by uploading information every 20 minutes. Tenzing is headquartered in Seattle.

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