Flying By The Chattering Class
Imagine sitting comfortably on your flight. You have just had a relaxing glass of wine and are about to nod off till you reach your destination. A phone rings. The passenger sitting next to you takes his mobile phone out of his pocket, and starts to chat to a friend, negotiate a business deal or whatever! Welcome to the chattering class. Like it or not, the prospect of using mobile phone on the planes is closer than ever.
OnAir, a company backed by Airbus has technology that allows mobile phone calls without interfering with ground based networks. Ryanair, Europe's largest low cost airline has announced plans to equip its entire fleet of Boeing 737s with this technology to enable passengers to make in-flight calls. Air France is to do the same with its Airbus A318 planes. It is only a matter of time before other airlines follow suit.
Why should airlines invest in this technology? They want a share of the phone call revenue. Ryanair's reasoning is that this will keep its fares down. Will people flock to airlines that offer in-flight calling? How much the passengers are likely to pay for the privilege of making a call even if the flight is cheap? Time will tell. Prices are likely to be on the higher side initially and they will come down in time. Surveys conducted recently suggest that a vast majority of people approve the idea of an ability of making calls from the plane while only around 54% business and 40% leisure travellers are likely to switch their phones on as long as call prices are under $2.50 per minute.
Interestingly Europeans are much warmer to the idea of in-flight calling than their American counterparts. United and Delta do not want it, yet! The ability to make in-flight calls, and any airlines' interest in this, is an interesting development. This is more so since Boeing recently scrapped Connexion, its impressive satellite based in-flight broadband service on its planes. The Europeans are likely to give a formal go ahead to in-flight mobile calling soon by start issuing frequencies and guidelines to airlines. I think that this service will more likely to be a success in short haul flights where people do not mind sitting next to a fellow passenger shouting into his mobile phone, however annoying it may be, as long it helps airlines subsidise their airfare. So expect your chattering class air ticket in less than 6 months.
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