The deadline was rapidly approaching. The editors back at
the magazine were
anxious to receive my latest attempt at literary perfection.
I was pounding
away on my laptop while on a flight to the Caribbean, when
it suddenly dawned
on me that I needed a piece of information to complete my
article. I stared
at the phone on the seatback in front of me, not sure how
to use it.
I decided to ask a flight attendant for assistance. She asked
me if I had a
10-digit code or if I had an AT & T calling card, which
as luck would have it
I did not. She promised to get another flight attendant who
could explain to
me how to register for phone service. An hour later I was
still waiting for
the proper instruction.
If that breaking news story requires air travel and you need
to speak with
someone in your newsroom while in the air, you must register
service in advance.
First, find out what telecommunications company serves the
airline you'll be
traveling on. AT&T and Airfone are the two major ground-to-air
communications companies. AT&T serves Alaska, American,
and Southwest Airlines. If you are flying on Aeromexico, Air
Continental, Delta, Mexicana, Midwest Express, United or US
is your carrier.
Regardless of which phone service you use, you'll need to
pick a 10-digit
identification and a four-digit password. An area code and
works perfectly for the 10-digit ID number.
The 10-digit number is not your in-flight phone number, but
if you plan to
receive a call from anyone they'll need to know that number.
Next register your ID number and password with the airline.
If your airline
uses Airfone, register before your flight from the ground
800-AIRFONE (800-247-3663). You can also register on the plane
by picking up
the handset and dialing 0.
If your flight is served by AT&T, you must register on
the plane by picking
up the handset and pressing the FCN key and the number 6.
Don't forget to
have your credit card ready when registering and flying, that's
your calls will be billed. Once the registration process is
complete you are
ready to make those calls.
I want to caution anyone who plans to make or receive a call
while in the
air. These calls are expensive. At last check ground-to-air
calls cost $3 to
connect and over $3 per minute if the call is place in North
airspace. If you fly internationally and need to make a call,
fees run $5 to $10 and the call itself can cost as much as
$10 per minute.
If you plan to receive a call while in the air the same rates
apply and are
billed to the person flying not the person on the ground making
the call. To
receive a call in the air the caller will need your 10-digit
Airfone callers will need to dial 800-Airfone (800-247-3663).
If the carrier
is AT&T, dial 800-746-4759. In either case the caller
will be prompted to
enter the 10-digit ID number. The call will then be transferred
to your seat.
When the phone rings in your row, the seat number will be
shown. If the call
is for you, simply enter your 4-digit password and credit
card number. The
caller's telephone number will appear on the screen. If you
decided not to
take the call, your credit card will not be charged.