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Phones on a plane

Airbus receives approval for in-flight cell phone use.

Airbus A320

Though the idea of cell phones on an airplane makes many people cringe, progress continues to march forward. Yesterday Airbus announced it had received approval from the European Safety Agency (sort of like the FAA) for a system that will bring cell phone use to the skies. Developed in partnership with a company called SITA, the OnAir system will allow passengers to send and receive not only e-mails and text messages but also full-blown voice calls.

Screaming in horror are you? Or are you one of those people who think you need to be reached at all times? Members of the former camp will be pleased to know that cabin crew will be able to activate a "voice-off" setting that will permit messaging only. There's no indication of when the service will commence but Airbus said it will be available only on intra-European flights on the aircraft manufacturer's single-aisle, short-haul planes such as the Airbus A320. Air France announced similar plans, also for shorter flights, two months ago. An Airbus exec added that the approval could pave the way for cell phone use on more planes worldwide, even on the gigantic Airbus A380. But if the FAA has anything to say about it, that won't happen anytime soon in the United States.