TAM Airlines Expands Inflight Connectivity

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Podcasts Videos Wednesday, 2 February 2011

TAM Airlines has expanded its contract with OnAir, the in-flight connectivity service provider, to equip a range of single-aisle aircraft this year.

Following a successful pilot project, TAM will install OnAir's on-board connectivity system in 26 aircrafts, allowing passengers to telephone, text, and browse the Internet using their own BlackBerrys or Smartphones.

The connected aircraft are expected to start flying in the second half of this year. TAM will set up a dedicated production line to install the system on the Airbus A319, A320, and A321 aircraft at its Technological Center in So Carlos, State of So Paulo. All the aircraft operate domestic routes and will fly to most of the 45 destinations covered by TAM in Brazil.

"The high use of on-board connectivity by our passengers has encouraged us to invest further. We noted our clients want and need to be connected while flying. To that end, we are increasing the number of aircrafts with the OnAir system to offer our customers a more complete flying experience", said Manoela Amaro, TAM Airlines' Marketing Officer.

TAM is one of the first airlines in the Americas to offer on-board mobile phone services. Since October 2010, one Airbus A321 - operating between So Paulo/Guarulhos, Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, Salvador and Porto Alegre - has been equipped with the OnAir system. The service, based on Inmarsat SwiftBroadband, allows passengers to connect to a cellular network from their personal GSM handsets.

Globally, the system has already proven itself on more than 150,000 flights to 356 cities, connecting passengers in 83 countries with roaming agreement with more than 250 mobile network operators.

"Inflight connectivity has reached a tipping point," said Ian Dawkins, Chief Executive Officer of OnAir. "It's now a must-have for airlines and no longer just a nice-to-have."

The service allows as many as eight TAM passengers to make and receive calls simultaneously on a flight, with no limits on data and text messaging. Mobile phones work in exactly the same way as in international roaming and can be activated as soon as the aircraft reaches an altitude of 4,000 metres (13,000 feet). Passengers can also use their Smartphones or BlackBerrys onboard to access e-mails or surf the internet. Usage is charged directly by the mobile network provider to the passenger's phone bill. Rates are set by his or her usual provider.

"The more passengers become aware that they can stay connected while in the air, the greater our understanding of the services they demand and the faster airlines are learning that connectivity is now an integral part of the onboard experience," Dawkins added. "TAM's pilot project underlines the phenomenal interest of passengers in the service when given the opportunity to stay connected."

The system provides complete aircraft safety by preventing any interference between mobile phone signals, mobile infrastructures on the ground and the aircraft's commands. If necessary, the OnAir system can be turned off by the aircraft's crew at any time. During takeoff and landing passengers will be instructed to switch off their electronic devices.

TAM Airlines received technical approval from the Brazilian National Agency of Civil Aviation (ANAC) and OnAir has received the authorisation to operate the service by the Brazilian National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel). The system has also been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and its use was recently approved by the European Union.

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