Airline passengers will be able to sip martinis, gaze at the clouds and talk on the phone starting tomorrow as nine airlines launch a telephone service from the sky.
The telephone service, provided by Airfone Inc., a joint venture between Western Union and Goeken Communications Inc., will make life cushier -- and perhaps more hectic -- for business people and the general public flying Air One, American, Delta, Eastern, Northwest Air, Pan American, Republic, United and TWA.
Passengers will be able to make calls throughout the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii for a fee of $7.50 for the first three minutes and $1.25 for each additional minute. A credit card will have to be inserted into a wall phone unit to release the receiver, which the passenger then will be able to take back to his or her seat.
"It's a good idea because you've got literally hundreds of thousands of business passengers and general public flying airlines everyday," said a Western Union spokesman. "The airlines carry 300 million passengers per year, including 175 million business travelers, so we believe Airfone will prove to be invaluable in making more efficient use of airline time," he said.
"In today's highly competitive atmosphere in the airline industry, you need to provide passengers with services they need," said Sally McElwreath, a TWA spokeswoman. TWA will provide the service on three planes starting tomorrow and will expand it to all 35 of its jumbo L-1011s over the coming months.
Airlines will be entitled to 12 to 15 percent of the revenue generated from the service, industry sources said, with the rest split between Western Union and Geoken.