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Google ChromebookUsing my laptop in-flight is a precarious affair. My black MacBook fits on the tray table, but the screen is so close to the seatback that I’m convinced any sudden movements will result in total computer destruction.

I’ve considered investing in a more compact tool, such as a tablet or MacBook Air, but Virgin America might have concocted a better solution: Free Google Chromebook rentals. Now through September 30, Virgin America and Google are partnering to lend up to 20 passengers per flight a Chromebook to toy with while at cruising altitude.


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The promotion touts Google’s nifty new computer, which ditches a traditional operating system in favor of apps and cloud computing. We’ve got to say, it boasts some pretty slick features: The Samsung version Virgin America is lending boots in about 8 seconds, automatically updates all apps, and is small enough to rest on a tray table – with room to spare for a Diet Coke and a pretzel pack.


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To sweeten the deal, Virgin America is throwing in free in-flight Wi-Fi access (a $12.95 charge on 3-hour or longer flights) – after all, the Chromebook is useless without an Internet connection

Although I’m not sure a Chromebook would fully satisfy my computing needs – I prefer to have access to my files even if there’s a faulty connection – I’m a huge fan of computer rentals in the skies. Carrying a laptop through security is yet one more hassle I’d happily pay a small fee to skip.

For now, know that the program is only available on Virgin America flights between participating airports: Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco International, and Boston Logan. Google Chromebook reps dole out the computers on a first-come, first-served basis at the gate, so skip that pre-flight cocktail and arrive early to get the goods.

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