Airline passengers may soon be able to send and receive text messages in midflight.

Swiss airline technology provider SITA has launched a two-way inflight SMS service, according to a statement from the company.

But instead of their own mobile phones, passengers will have to use the in-seat telephone handset or seatback entertainment console to send and receive SMS messages while the plane is airborne.

SITA is currently working with several airlines to introduce two-way text messaging by the end of this year, said the statement.

The service is available worldwide, and messages are cached, compressed and delivered using UK-based Inmarsat Holdings’ satellite system.

Users can input up to 160 characters in length, incorporating words, numbers and certain country-extended character sets. They can also choose to pay for the service using their own credit card, or using SITA’s prepaid card, said the statement.

This follows a trial of SITA’s one-way text messaging service on board Singapore Airlines (SIA) aircraft.

SIA passengers who travel on ten Megatop B747 and Jubilee B777 planes that fly from Singapore to the US, Europe and Australia can send SMS and email while on board. Passengers access the messaging service through the entertainment console. However, they cannot receive SMS text or email.

An SIA spokesperson told CNETAsia that the trials are still running and the airline will not rule out the possibility of upgrading to a two-way system.

“The SIA inseat messaging service has been getting positive feedback from passengers and we are also encouraged by the helpful comments on how we can make the service even better and more user-friendly,” she said.

The service is free during this trial period.

More here.