The first authorised in-flight mobile phone calls were made today on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Casablanca.
Passengers on the A340-300 were also able to send and receive text messages after the Aeromobile system automatically switched on at cruise altitude. Those wishing to use the service were requested to put their phones on silent – crew also have the ability to turn off the voice-calling technology if necessary.
Patrick Brannelly, vice-president of passenger communications and visual services at Emirates, said: “It is a very exciting day. We were very confident that everything was going to work so we didn’t even run it secretly in trial mode. We did all the tests on the ground and pushed back this morning, and it’s working very well so far.”
He added: “I’ve got a colleague on the flight, and I’ve spoken to him several times – in fact, an issue came up which I thought would take a long time to sort out, but I was able to call him on the flight and resolve it very quickly. It seemed quite strange, even though I’ve been working on the project.”
Emirates is now planning to roll out the technology across its entire fleet of 105 aircraft. One B777-300 is already enabled and will be in operation shortly, while other aircraft will be fitted during routine maintenance, at the rate of about three a month. The carrier will also be upgrading the systems later this year to allow the transmission of GPRS data.
In other news, Qantas has announced that it will be rolling out its SMS/GPRS service across its domestic fleet, following successful trials. Air France is testing a similar system on one of its A318s, while Ryanair and Turkish Airlines are expected to introduce voice-calling technology this year.
Report by Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker