Flying on a plane used to be one of the few places where you could disconnect from the world. But with technology pushing its way onboard, staying in touch with terrestrial matters while flying at 35,000 feet will soon be routine.
- In-flight cell phones: Current rules forbid use of mobile phones on commercial airliners. But earlier this year, American and Frontier Airlines began testing new systems that let passengers use their cell phones in-flight. Planes are equipped with a cellular base station. Onboard calls are routed through this base station, then linked to the earthbound telephone network via satellite, allowing passengers to make and receive calls without interfering with the plane's navigation systems. Testing should last another year or so.
- In-flight internet: Lufthansa now offers onboard high-speed internet access using a system called Connexion by Boeing. Users log on for $30 per long-haul flight or opt for the metered price of $10 for the first 30 minutes, then 25 cents per minute thereafter. (You'll soon find Connexion on All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, China Airlines, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Scandinavian Airlines and Singapore Airlines.)
- In-flight satellite TV: Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Song offer the newest technological killer app: live satellite TV. With each seat outfitted with a video screen and headset jacks, you can choose from multiple channels for TV, news, pay-per-view movies, music and games. Another low-fare carrier, AirTran, is adding live XM Satellite Radio. Passengers can access 100 channels of live digital-quality XM Radio, with live news, sports, weather, talk and music programming.
Chris McGinnis, travel correspondent for CNN Headline News, is author of The Unofficial Business Travelers' Pocket Guide. Reach him at .