Uh boy, few things are worse than having to eat your own words. However, after seeing AeroMobile's stats on in-flight voice call usage, I may have to do just that (well, just a little).
For years, I've been promising readers of this blog that people don't make a lot of voice calls in-flight. And, for years I've cited this "fact" as one of the many reasons why folks shouldn't be scared of allowing the technology to be fitted to US aircraft.
But AeroMobile - whose mobile connectivity solution is in place on 60% of Emirates' in-service fleet - has told me that over 11,000 voice calls were made/received to equipped Emirates aircraft in February 2010 alone!
The longest call made from an aircraft was 65min on a Dubai-Accra flight on 11 October 2009.
The highest number of calls made from an aircraft was 82 on a Bombay-Dubai flight on 20 September 2009.
And, are you ready for this? One of the top passengers (in terms of usage) generated on average over 2.5 hours of voice traffic on each of seven flights flown over the past 6 months!!!
You'll excuse me if I make the following statement in my most contrived Valley Girl accent: "Like, oh my gawd!!!"
Just look at how AeroMobile traffic has climbed in the last 10 months!
Now I know what you're thinking. An uber-wealthy, "I don't care about international roaming rates" kind of Emirates passenger cannot be compared to Joe Blow from Idaho.
Equally, however, as rates drop, we can't assume that Joe won't get really chatty with Flow on his flight to Boise.
Take a look at the regional trends for usage of AeroMobile's voice and SMS services.
But let's drill down. Here is an AeroMobile chart showing that Africa and Europe have higher usage (SMS and voice combined) than share of flights.
Africa, for example, generates 17% of usage but only accounts for 11% of flights. Key routes in north Africa such as Tripoli, Casablanca, Cairo and Khartoum contribute to this.
The highest number of SMS messages sent to/from an aircraft was 477 on a Casablanca-Dubai flight on 13 February, according to AeroMobile.
Europe, meanwhile, generates 29% of usage but only accounts for 19% of flights. Key routes such as London Heathrow and Munich contribute to this
OK, so it turns out that Emirates passengers like to talk in-flight (and some like to talk a lot). But you should also see this next chart, which shows the majority of calls are made on long-haul flights. It might make you feel a little bit better (i.e. it stands to reason that we can expect more voice calls on transcons than domestic short-haul in the USA, if the service is ever permitted).
Thankfully, I've still got loads of other reasons why I don't think this technology should be banned on US aircraft. So I don't have to dive into the humble pie as much as I need to take a slice (with real whipped cream, thank you).