UPDATED: A little bit of honey and well…

Amended to include additional information from Honeywell, including, substantially, that AeroMobile is doing the interface and billing!

Well isn’t the world of airline in-flight connectivity getting more and more interesting by the second? Today Honeywell announced that it has provided upgraded satellite communications equipment to Malaysia Airlines to allow passengers to use mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) while on selected flights as part of a pilot program.

Honeywell says the trial began in January and will run through mid-2009. And by the sounds of it, the whole process was rather painless.

Malaysia 777.jpgBut before we talk details, let’s take a step back to February 2001 when Honeywell suspended its Total Aircraft Information System (TAIS) airline activities, including its “Inflightmail” service, saying it believed the business case did not support the product for the commercial sector at that time.

“The business model doesn’t make [commercial] sense. We are waiting for conditions to change,” said Honeywell in 2001, adding that high bandwidth technology is crucial for the success of in-flight e-mail.

Fast-forward to today and Inmarsat’s Swift64 aeronautical service apparently packs enough punch to bring Honeywell back into the game.

A single Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 777 is already outfitted with Honeywell’s satcom communications systems to provide digital voice and data communications, as well as flight deck connectivity with air traffic control.

“Recent routine maintenance checks provided an opportunity to implement the new lightweight data services capability, for cost-effective and seamless connectivity. The European Aviation Safety Agency and the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation provided aviation safety approvals,” says Honeywell.

The company confirms that this is the first commercial trial of its mobile connectivity offering. But in an interview with RWG this morning, the firm says AeroMobile “is doing the interface and billing”. How about saying that in the press release, guys?

The intent is that Malaysia will go fleet-wide. In the future the same system will be upgraded to SwiftBroadband, says Honeywell.

“The Honeywell in-flight communications system is a tremendous advancement in improving passenger productivity and convenience,” says Honeywell VP of airlines Mike Madsen.

“Honeywell is able to deliver this enhanced capability that supports passenger cell phone and Blackberry use very easily and at a low cost for Malaysia Airlines. The architecture of our systems allows for easy installation and future upgrades can be completed quickly, with minimal downtime for the aircraft.”

It might be time for Honeywell to update its airborne cell phone systems page!!!

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