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Emirates launches A380 wifi connectivity

Originally published on www.businesstravellerme.com 12/12/2011 - Filed under: News »

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After a discreet year in the planning, with some A380s offering internet on board, Emirates today officially launched its wifi connectivity for its growing fleet of double-decker aircraft.

Wifi services will initially launch on 11 of 19 A380s currently in service and all new aircraft will now come with the OnAir wireless service, as it’s introduced across the entire 71 aircraft on order.

As aircraft are rotated and not dedicated to certain routes, it's not possible to state the exact routes on which the service is available.

Emirates is launching four prices, covering normal and heavy use for mobiles and laptops - although mobile services won't be introduced until next June.

They start at $7.50 for mobile use up to 5MB, rising to $15 for 25MB, while laptop prices begin at $15 for 25MB, rising to $25 for 100MB. The $7.50 package should be sufficient for the average BlackBerry user to stay connected all the way from Dubai to Paris.

Speaking exclusively to Business Traveller Middle East, Patrick Brannelly, Vice President Corporate Communications Product, Publishing, Digital and Events, said it was important to make prices affordable.

"Historically airline travellers haven’t wanted to pay for any ancillary services, it’s always been a bit tricky and we’ve never really understood the causes.

"Charging $7.50 is the price of a coffee. We want to make it affordable but realistically we don't expect more than 4% of passengers to use the service. One of the challenges is that the usage will be lower because there's so much distraction on board – from the food, the in-flight entertainment, the bar, the spa, the bed."

Emirates currently has 91 aircraft equipped with the Aeromobile mobile phone service, having introduced it in 2008, with the number of users exceeding 8.7 million.

Asked whether the A380 wifi roll-out will now hasten on-board internet across the fleet, he said it will look at it quickly and assess demand.

"We are already upgrading the communication capabilities across the rest of our fleet. It's important to stress when we’re saying connectivity – this isn't for streaming movies, where the technical and financial challenges remain – it's for checking mails or catching up with social media, or news headlines."

He said Emirates recognises that being connected inflight is increasingly important especially on its increasing number of long-haul flights. In early January, the airline starts flights to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires (click here).

"Adding internet access is going to be a vital and ubiquitous part of any inflight experience, just as it is in everyday life on the ground."

Business travellers seem divided on the introduction of mobile phone services however. Those looking forward to using handsets in the sky are offset by others who have concerns over in-cabin noise and always being contactable.

For more information, visit emirates.com

Report by Dominic Ellis

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