Passengers can soon use mobile phones during flights

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Airlines to launch mobile services later this year as EU regulators grant approval of use of mobile phones during European flights.

7 April 2008

BRUSSELS - The European Union on Monday opened the way for air travellers to use mobile phones to talk, text or send e-mails on planes throughout Europe's airspace.

With the approval by EU regulators, airlines will be able to launch onboard mobile services later this year, officials said.

Viviane Reding, the EU's telecommunications commissioner, warned phone operators not to set rates for the service too high and urged airlines to protect passengers from excessive phone use.

"In-flight mobile phone services can be a very interesting new service especially for those business travellers who need to be ready to communicate wherever they are," Reding said. "However, if consumers receive shock phone bills, the service will not take off."

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, said it will keep a close eye to ensure pricing is transparent.

Several airlines, including Air France, have already launched a trial of in-flight mobile phone services on some European routes. British Midland Airways, Portugal's TAP and low-cost airline Ryanair are also planning to offer services later this year.

Germany's Lufthansa, however, said Monday it does not want to introduce the service.

Surveys had shown that a large majority of customers were against it, Lufthansa spokesman Jan Baerwalde said.

"People don't want to be disturbed," Baerwalde said. Lufthansa will, however, look at providing fast Internet access on its planes, a service it already offered from 2004 until the end of 2006. The airline is currently looking for a new service partner to reintroduce the service.

The regulation sets a common standard by which passengers can safely use their mobile phones during flights and airlines will only need to get one national licence to launch their services. Those licences will apply across the entire 27-nation bloc.

Most services that are being rolled out this year are being provided by OnAir, a unit of plane maker Airbus. Their services allow in-air telephone calls above 3,000-metre altitudes.

EU spokesman Martin Selmayr said the phone services will not be available during take off or landing or during turbulence. He said the captain and crew of the plane can control when they want to switch off the onboard network.

[AP / Expatica]

3 Comments To This Article

  • rltanizaki posted:

    on 8th April 2008, 12:23:02 - Reply

    It'll be like an Amsterdam tram/train ride: noisy and unpleasant, with seemingly mindless commuters chattering and chatting about their love (or lack of it) lives and other personal subjects on the phone. Lufthansa is to be commended - how wise the Germans are; I wonder if the Dutch airline will follow suit?
  • Sean posted:

    on 7th April 2008, 21:16:40 - Reply

    Oh please no, now throughout each flight we're going to have to listen to:

    1) the business person whose phone does not stop ringing.
    2) the person who, instead of reading or watching the movie, will just chat on the phone the whole time.

    It's going to make flying even less pleasant.
  • albrecht posted:

    on 7th April 2008, 15:57:02 - Reply

    Great. One of the last places where one is not confronted by people incessantly talking into mobile units and having to hear one half of another's conversation at a high volume needs to be ruined. Maybe the EU should also allow youths to bring their loud radios on the plane so we can also be bombarded with loud, offensive rap music? The EU bans smoking on flights, due to the offensive nature of second-hand smoke on other passengers and flight staff. Now must we have noise pollution on our flights? Just because something is possible doesn't mean it should happen. And what about those terrorists who will now find it much easier to coordinate with each other even whilst in the air?