Virgin Files E-Mail Flight Plan

Thought you could zone out and not do any work on your next transatlantic flight? Watch out.

Virgin Atlantic announced yesterday its plan to offer e-mail and Web access to its passengers by the end of the year. While other airlines have similar plans, Virgin says it will provide the service to every seat — not just those in business class.

The Virgin service is also faster than those of competitors: The airline has allied with Hughes Global Services and Tenzing Communications to provide broadband links to every aircraft via satellite.

Passengers can browse the Web and send e-mail using their own laptops, or via seat-back televisions. The temptation to goof off will be ever-present, though, since the Matsushita MAS3000 system will also offer more than 20 hours of high-resolution, on-demand digital video.

Business travelers will value the fact that they can send and receive e-mail using their existing addresses. But for others, says Virgin Atlantic’s irreverent chairman Richard Branson, “we’ll add a fun element…e-mail messages sent from the plane will show up as being from something like passenger’”