After a pretty tortuous path overcoming the regulatory hurdles, there appear increasing signs we might be getting a bit closer to finding out how popular mobile phone use onboard aircraft is going to be, as there is a bit of momentum among the airlines testing the water. Interesting figures from Emirates today, the first to go live with the AeroMobile service nearly a year ago. It started allowing passenger to make voice calls with their mobile onboard last March and its now available on 31 aircraft. On 15 February it passed a milestone by logging its 100,000th call. But pointing to momentum for the service, the companies say half of these calls were logged in the last two months alone and AeroMobile chief Bjorn-Taale Sandbe says:
"The sharp increase is not due only to the wider availability as our system is rolled out across the Emirates fleet, but the acceptance from passengers of what a valuable and stable service it is."
Plenty of airlines have signed up for these services as well and its a real horses for courses, depending on what type of carrier or where in the world you are, as to whether the driver for this is as a service offering or ancillary revenue driver. The same is true as to whether carriers want voice calls, e-mails or texting, or all of, or none of.
One of the latest to sign up is BA, but its opting for e-mail and text messaging capability only its all-business transatlantic service from London City. Air France, TAP Portugal and now bmi have all been carrying out tests of the OnAir service already, and Ryanair will finally go live with its trial of the OnAir service by the end of the month. This promises to be one of the most informative, as not only are is the Irish carrier starting relatively big - it will initially deploy the service on 20 Dublin-based aircraft with another 20 equipped by summer - it is the first carrier to deploy which is primarily driven by its potential for ancillary revenues.
The next few months in this sector promise to be interesting.
For more on this check out this article Mary Kirby wrote for Airline Business late last year.