Babies are about to get some stiff competition for worst thing to be seated next to on a long flight.

Virgin Atlantic announced yesterday that passengers flying from London to NYC and vice versa aboard their Airbus A330-300 can now make cell phone calls while up in the air.

According to a press release, the system will initially allow only six people to use their cell phones simultaneously — and only in "exceptional situations," though the company neglected to define exactly what that meant. Additionally, calls cannot be placed during takeoff and landing and within 250 miles of US airspace.

Smartphone addicts will be able to use their devices to access the web and send text messages. The $1.20-a-minute pricetag is somewhat (happily) prohibitive, and only O2, Vodafone, and T-Mobile customers can use the service for now, but all of these restrictions are likely to be loosened over time.

20 of Virgin's planes are expected to be cell-phone-friendly by the end of the year.

According to the Associated Press, the Dubai-based airline Emirates was the first to offer in-flight cell phone usage in 2008, with Oman Air and Royal Jordanian following suit.

[photo via AP]