Emirates to launch Inflight Mobile Phone Use in January 2007

Travel News Asia Thursday, 9 November 2006

In what could be a major put-off for many airline customers, Emirates has confirmed that it is to introduce inflight mobile phone use for passengers across its entire fleet.

Emirates will install a system that allows passengers the choice of safely using their own mobile phones to make and receive phone calls and text messages from Emirates aircraft.

The Dubai-based carrier expects to launch the service on board one of its Boeing 777s as early as January 2007, once all necessary approvals are granted.

The  move represents an investment of US$27 million by Emirates to fit its fleet with the equipment supplied by AeroMobile, a pioneering provider of inflight mobile services. The AeroMobile aircraft systems ensure that passenger mobile phones operate at their minimum power settings thereby allowing their safe use on the aircraft.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group said, Our customers are already making more than 6,000 calls a month from our in-seat phones, so we will be making life easier for those for whom staying in touch using their mobile phone has become an indispensable part of their everyday lives. Our research tells us our customers would appreciate the option of staying in touch in this way.

Emirates cabin staff and information videos will advise and encourage passengers to switch their phones to silent or vibrate mode when used in the aircraft.

Phones may only be used at cruise altitude and the cabin crew will have full control over the system, including the ability to prevent voice calls at certain times such as during night flights. The number of calls that may be made at any one time is also limited to a maximum of five or six calls, the same number as for the current in-seat phones used regularly by Emirates' passengers.

The service will also allow passengers to send and receive text messages, with charges in line with international roaming rates.

Although inflight calls have traditionally been regarded as an expensive and little used service on many airlines, Emirates' strategy of operating the service at affordable and subsidised rates has resulted in one of the highest usages in the industry. Currently, this exceeds 13,000 minutes of talk time every month from passengers' in-seat telephones connected via satellite services - reflecting the high value users place on the ability to keep in touch with their relatives, friends and business associates. 

The implementation of the AeroMobile system on Emirates aircraft will make this capability even more convenient with Emirates' passengers being able to use their own phones, access their address books and contact lists, and have calls billed to their regular phone bills as with any other roaming call.

Emirates and AeroMobile plan to add GPRS data and internet capability to the system as soon as the necessary satellite communications systems are upgraded later in 2007. This will allow the use of BlackBerrys, Palm Treos and mobile data-enabled PDAs and laptop PCs for email and Internet access from the aircraft.

On aircraft where the AeroMobile system is not installed, existing rules banning the use of mobile phones by passengers remain in force at all times. Mobile phones must remain switched off for the duration of the flight in accordance with current aviation regulatory requirements, and passengers must continue to follow the instructions of the cabin staff at all times regarding the use of mobile phones and other portable electronic devices.

See other recent news regarding: Travel News Asia, Emirates, Mobile Phones, Airline Passengers Say 'No' to Inflight Mobile Phone Use

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