British Airways could consider a trial of voice calls using the OnAir mobile communication system installed on its transatlantic Airbus A318s, to assess demand and possible consequences.
It plans initially to limit the mobile service to silent messaging but BA corporate programme management team member Paul Beadsmoore says the carrier could hold a voice trial on the London City-Shannon sector.
"If there's a positive customer reaction, we'd offer it on a limited basis," he says, although the carrier would "discourage" use on the 'sleeper' eastbound flight from New York JFK to London City.
The A318 cockpit is fitted with a switch, above the engine fire console, which enables the OnAir system. The electronics rack is mounted in an overhead luggage bin above passenger seat row 7, although Airbus GSM on-board business development manager Soenke Bock says this is not an "ideal" location and the airframer is looking at the possibility of relocating it away from the cabin.
© David Kaminski-Morrow
While BA is keeping details of the cabin interior under wraps until the inaugural service, the 32 seats - eight rows of four-abreast - can each convert to a lie-flat bed, and are fitted with in-seat power, individual lamps and extendible braces for plug-in video screens. This eliminates the need for complex networked in-flight entertainment system. The cabin also has a 'mood lighting' feature, with low-intensity illumination.
BA's A318s have no overwing exits but the airline says these "could be activated" if the aircraft need to be adapted in future.