Virgin Atlantic is to charge £14.99 to use wifi on its flights, the airline has confirmed, while introducing ‘selfie hotspots’ onboard and allowing check-in on Facebook.
Onboard connectivity is being introduced on the airline’s new Boeing 787 aircraft which takes to the skies today (Thursday) on a special one-off flight to Atlanta before entering scheduled service to Boston on Sunday (October 26). The charge covers the full duration of the flight; however destination and aircraft information, in-flight sales and some other services are free.
A couple of features will be popular with the ‘Me Generation’. Passengers can update Facebook free of charge from the air and use it to check in and share their location with friends and followers mid-flight. The app will allow one check in per person but passengers must then purchase the wifi to continue the conversation.
Virgin Atlantic is also developing #SkyhighSelfie spots in the cabin. The airline says these offer passengers the chance to take the perfect selfie onboard and share their experience. It adds: “The app will also act as a mile high discussion forum where customers on the flight can chat and spark debate in the air.”
The technology behind all this is by Panasonic and T-Mobile, which brings eXConnect KU Band wifi to laptop, tablet or mobile phones, with each seat throughout economy, Premium Economy and Upper Class cabins having a power point.
The 787 Dreamliner also sees Virgin Atlantic introduce the new Vera Touch 2 in-flight entertainment system throughout all cabins, with more than 400 hours of films, TV, games and audio entertainment. The IFE also boasts a new 3D Skymap from Betria Interactive with ‘point-of-interest’ content. All seats have a USB port allowing passengers to power their own devices.
Another innovation is in the Upper Class cabin, where there is a 24” touchscreen monitor over the bar showing looped animations as well as the option to view the route map on a larger screen.
Business Traveller’s Jenny Southan is on board the Atlanta flight today and will report back.
Other guests include BRIT Award-winning Rudimental and hit-makers Gorgon City. The two London based bands will perform the first ever gig to be live streamed from over the Atlantic Ocean to the world. VIP guests include an audience of super fans who won spaces on the flight.
Also on board is TV chef Lorraine Pascale who has been working with the airline to create signature dishes for Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class passengers along with a variety of children’s meals to be served throughout every cabin.
Dishes include Lorraine’s “Marvellous” mac’n’cheese with pancetta, sweet & sour pork balls with sunshine rice and “Mum’s” chili con carne with calypso rice.
Making an appearance for the first time is Virgin Atlantic’s new sparkling wine from English winery Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire. Virgin claims Meon Hill Grand Reserve has been specifically selected to compliment the cabin pressure and humidity of the 787 and has been found to stay bubbly for longer. It will be available exclusively on the 787.
After the 787 is introduced on Boston, others will appear on Heathrow services to Washington, Newark and JFK in the following five months.