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May 21, 2009

Oprah's Skyping with Virgin America

by Barbara S. Peterson

Did you know that air travel history is being made today? That you, too, could witness a feat rivaling that of Chuck Yeager and Buzz Aldrin?  

Well, if you take that teaser from Virgin America literally, you haven't been near a Virgin plane lately, where tongue-in-cheekiness is mandatory. Tune in to the Oprah Winfrey Show today and you can listen in on an air-to-ground Skype call to the daytime TV host, marking the fact that today Virgin America becomes the first U.S. airline to offer Wi-Fi access on its entire fleet. The airline beat out several other contenders, including Delta, Alaska, and AirTran, which have all pledged to soon wire themselves up so you can surf the Internet from 30,000 feet. (American is also moving swiftly to add Wi-Fi to some 300 planes by next year.) 

Don't think you will be able to duplicate the phone call to Oprah or to anyone else, though: Voice communications are still banned aloft in the United States. Why? Not because the calls would endanger the plane but because the traveling public likely won't stand for a planeload of people screaming, "Guess where I am?" into their mobiles.

And if you can't get enough of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and his antics, tune in on his ongoing feud with Stephen Colbert. It began on the eve of the Virgin America launch in 2007 when the two had a dustup on TV, but it had its latest round on Letterman last night.

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