Monday, December 09, 2013

Airlines That Offer In-Flight Phone Calls and Texting

There are at least 19 airlines that currently allow passengers to make calls from their mobile phone while in flight. So far there haven't been many complaints, probably because it costs so much that the calls being made are short. The calls are contingent on individual passengers' international calling plans. International roaming rates tend to be in the $3 to $4 per minute range, and are billed to the passenger by their network operator. The average in-flight voice call is less than two minutes, and commonly takes place before takeoff or after landing as passengers connect with families, colleagues and friends. 

Here is a list of airlines that allow voice calls, SMS texting, and/or email and data on passengers' mobile phones. Aer Lingus Long haul but doesn't allow voice calls; Aeroflot A320, A330, B777; Air Asia select short-haul flights; Air France select long haul B77-300; Azerbaijan Airlines A320; British Airways A318; Egypt Air A330; Emirates long haul to/from Dubai; Etihad long haul; KLM B777-300; Libyan Airlines A320, A330; Malaysia Airlines Select Boeing 777 flights; Oman Air Select A330 flights; Philippine Airlines A330, B777; Qatar Airways A320, B787; Royal Jordanian A320; SAS B737-883; Saudi Arabian Airlines A330, B777; Singapore Airlines Select A340, A380, B777; TAM A320 family; TAP Portugal Select A319s; Transaero Select B747s, B777s; Virgin Atlantic A330-300, B747-400. In-flight voice calls have restrictions: They are not allowed during takeoff or landings, airlines generally disable them at night, and the cockpit and crew have separate switches to turn off voice calls, if desired. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

TSA Attempting to Reduce Airport Lines

Travelers who use the TSA's Pre-Check program get to keep their shoes, belts and sweaters on and do not have to pull their laptops from cases or display their baggy of liquids as they hustle through special airport checkpoint lines. Their carry-on luggage still passes through X-ray machines, and they still must step through metal detectors. The TSA says that more than 25 million fliers have used the zip-through-security program since its soft rollout in 2011. 

Now it is opening a registration Web site, sign-up centers at major airports and a few downtown locations nationwide, with the first at Indianapolis International Airport this week and one set to open at Dulles International before year's end. Opening the enrollment centers, 300 in all, will be a step toward TSA's grander plan to reduce the security hassle for low-risk passengers so workers can focus on those who give some reason for suspicion. The TSA says someone who shows up at an enrollment center will spend about 10 minutes (not counting any wait time) signing up for the program. It requires a background check, fingerprints and an $85 fee for a five-year enrollment. A passport, required for some other programs, is not necessary. Members will receive a "known traveler number" to provide to airlines when making a reservation. That makes the traveler eligible for the speedy line at 102 big airports or when flying with seven airlines, including all the major ones.