Virgin Air Adds Texting And Music Downloads To Flights; The inaugural flight begins this week between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco

Airline passengers, long deprived of Internet features, are promised some light at the end of the in-flight wireless tunnel, thanks to two separate announcements made Monday.

Virgin America said it will offer passengers the ability to text message and download music on flights. Concurrently, broadband service provider ARINC (Aeronautical Radio, Inc.) said it will provide a real-time payment system to passengers.

Virgin America passengers on inaugural flight beginning this week between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco will be able to send text messages to each other and to create music playlists from an archive of 3,000 songs, the airline said.

ARINC, which supplies Internet broadband services to private jets, said it has teamed up with payment processor Abanco LLC to develop an airborne data and credit card payment system.

So as of this month, Virgin passengers can fly the Internet skies, text message till their fingers fall off, download music (presumably Virgin artists) and pay by plastic without guilt.

"This joint effort will create a system that has endless possibilities for real-time data and payments on flights worldwide," said Tracy Metzger, Abanco's president, in a statement. In addition to authorizing air-to-ground real-time payments transactions, ARINC said the service will open "a range of in-flight data solutions."

Abanco's MDT In-Flight service is already utilized for pre-and post-flight inventory controls, real-time analytics, and credit card transactions that counter fraud.

The Virgin America and ARINC announcements follow last week's announcements by Deutsche Lufthansa that it plans to offer Internet broadband service via satellite for transoceanic flights and by American Airlines that it is preparing to offer Internet broadband service on U.S. intercontinental flights.

Most of the emerging in-flight services are the result of partnerships. Lufthansa is teamed with satellite operator SES Global, ViaSat and T-Mobile while American Airlines is working with AirCell, which has acquired a wide swath of spectrum in an FCC auction.

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