The FAA announced last week that it was finally going to loosen restrictions on the rules of using gadgets on planes. Now, on many flights you no longer have to turn off your phone, iPad or e-reader before takeoff. However, you do have to set those devices in airplane mode so your cellular network is powered off.
That means no text messages or cell phone calls in the air. However, Gogo, the company that provides the in-flight Wi-Fi network on many flights, is looking to change that. The company announced today its Text and Talk feature, which allows passengers to send texts and make phone calls over its in-flight network using their own smartphones.
To get the service working, passengers have to download the Gogo Text & Talk app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store when they are on the ground and then when they are up in the clouds they can connect to the service. The app connects the phone to a network, which then allows the phone to access the device's phone and texting capabilities. It's a fairly technical implementation, but basically it routes your calls or texts over Gogo's wireless network, letting you communicate with people on the ground. Gogo says the texting and calling service will cost less to use than the full wireless networks.
But whether this is actually implemented on flights remains a big question. Gogo says it knows that most passengers on U.S. commercial flights don't want to hear their neighbors gabbing on the phones. So instead it is focused on bringing the texting piece to flights.
"We know U.S. carriers don't want the talk piece," Gogo's Steve Nolan told ABC News. "But we know someone might not want to pay for the full connectivity or wireless option. We think that a texting option would allow people to connect on the ground and be a more affordable option."
Nolan said that the company is working with U.S. airlines to launch the texting service in the first quarter of 2014. The voice and texting service is already being used in business aviation for private jets.