Since May, passengers on some Virgin Atlantic flights from London to New York have turned on their cellphones in the air, typed out text messages or made calls — without getting in trouble for it.
They're doing what hundreds of thousands of passengers on foreign airlines in parts of Europe and the Middle East have been doing for at least four years: using cellphones once planes have climbed past 10,000 feet. The airlines offer the service to benefit their customers with the blessing of their governments.
But when Virgin Atlantic passengers get within 250 miles of the U.S. coast, the talking and texting stops. The practice is forbidden in the United States because of government safety concerns about cellphone signals interfering with communication networks on the ground and possibly interfering with the plane's communications and navigation equipment.