How to Text from a Plane

All right, so you’re 35,000 feet in the air, and you forgot to take the dog for his walk, feed your fish, or pay that important bill that’s due that day. What do you do?

Believe it or not, there may be options for you to get the message out, even if you’re well beyond the range of a good mobile signal. Many airlines currently offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Using this, you can access a number of resources that can restore your ability to text. Here are some tips on getting a text message out while you’re in flight.

Google Voice

Google Voice is a free service offered by Google that gives you a working phone number and unlimited free text messages (some restrictions may apply). Download the Google Voice app to your iPhone, Android device, or you can even access the Web interface from your smart phone and/or laptop. It only takes an initial text message to let someone know who you are and where you are. Google Voice as an app works a lot like regular text messages, with its own app replacing the phone’s own messaging system for those texts.


Did you know you can usually email your friend’s cell phone using a free email to SMS gateway? Most major providers offer this service for free. This allows your friends to email you without having to use a data plan, but also for you to text them without cell service. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say your friend’s number is 333-444-5555. Here’s where you’ll email your text message:


  • (SMS)
  • (MMS)

Boost Mobile

  • (SMS)


  • (SMS)
  • (MMS)


  • (SMS)


  • (SMS)
  • (MMS)

Virgin Mobile

  • (SMS)

In case you’re wondering, your friend will be able to reply by responding to the same SMS thread. The email gateway works both ways.


If Google Voice isn’t your cup of tea, you might be interested to know that Skype also provides users with a method to text message with the mobile system. This service does cost you money, however, so you may want to use it sparingly.

Charges for texting using Skype are determined by the country to which you are texting. All US to US SMS messages are $0.112 per message.

Yahoo! Messenger

With Yahoo! Messenger, you can send and receive text messages to a number of different carriers across 10 countries including the United States, Canada, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Kuwait, and Pakistan. This service is free to you.

Things to Avoid

There are a million different “free” SMS services online. While some are legit, there are many that sign your friend up for text message spam about everything from sneakers to horoscopes. Unfortunately, they are more annoying than they’re worth. You’re probably better off sticking to Yahoo!, Google, and official channels through the carrier’s email gateway.

The fact of the matter is, these services are acting as middle men between you and the email gateway.

Armed with this knowledge, you should have no problem getting that important SMS (or MMS) to your friends on the ground while in flight.

If you’re interested in seeing another perspective on Google Voice and other alternatives, LockerGnome’s Kelly Clay has recently detailed her experiences and solutions for texting over the Web.

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