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Stuck next to a know-all on a long flight? Virgin Atlantic launches first answer-anything in-flight entertainment service

From this month, airline passengers will be able to get answers to such burning questions as why the sky around the aircraft is blue, whether they should choose chicken or beef and where the water from the onboard lavatories goes when they flush.

The UK long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic is experimenting with the latest craze among tech-savvy teenagers in the UK, who text questions to the Any Question Answered (AQA) team of researchers via mobile phone and receive answers within seconds. Virgin has integrated the service into its in-flight entertainment system after signing a deal with AQA for an undisclosed sum.

Passengers can send a question via their seat-back screens using arrows on their in-flight entertainment controllers, letter by letter, and receive an answer to even the most obscure question.

The airline expects the system to be used for serious questions concerning the passenger’s destination such as terminal advice, cost of an average taxi fare and the duration of the flight. However, based on the experience in the UK and Ireland, where the service is available, points to higher usage in the evening and the AQA team theorise that alcohol consumption could be partly responsible for such questions as “Which breakfast cereal is better for making clothing?”. Language tips including romancing members of the opposite gender are among the favourites in early trials, the airline says.

© Virgin Atlantic 

Virgin Atlantic’s onboard media development manager Dave Tharp says: “We thought it would be fun to offer a service that is the perfect solution to that niggling question you don’t always know the answer to. It is a great way to ask for a recommended bar in New York, the best way to get over jet-lag, or even the best way to chat up the cabin crew.”

Paul Cockerton, Marketing Director from IssueBits, the provider of the AQA service says the deal with Virgin is the first airborne text question answering service. The AQA service will be rolled out across the Virgin Atlantic fleet of aircraft later this month.

AQA uses 500 researchers, typically students, working from home answering questions 24h a day.  


Sample Question Response
Why is New York called the Big Apple? 
New York was called "The Big Apple" in the 1920's in reference to its many race tracks, as horses were rewarded with apples. It became official in 1971

Why after you yawn is everything louder?
Yawning clears the opening of the Eustachian tube, much like swallowing to equalise on a plane. The Eustachian tube is around 35mm long.

How many countries drive on the left?

There are 75 countries that drive on the left, including Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bermuda, Botswana, Brunei and the Cayman Islands

Why did Lady Penelope never get laid by any of the Thunderbirds? Lady Penelope clearly thought there would be too many strings attached. Sleeping with the Thunderbirds can only lead to a complicated, tangled mess

Which breakfast cereal is better for making trousers: Shreddies or Shredded Wheat?
The best cereal for making a pair of trousers depends on the effect you’d like. Shreddies work well for patchwork, Shredded Wheat is better for weaving.

Source: AQA
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