Middle Eastern carrier Oman Air plans to retrofit three Airbus A330s with in-flight connectivity, and says it is open to the possibility of bringing the service to its Boeing 737NG narrowbodies.

The carrier recently took delivery of the first commercial widebody to offer both mobile and Internet connectivity. The new Airbus A330-300 was linefit with Airbus/SITA partnership OnAir's equipment, which uses Inmarsat's higher-bandwidth SwiftBroadband (SBB) aeronautical service.

Passengers aboard this A330 will be able to use their cell phones and light Internet by the end of January 2010. However, Oman's three earlier delivered A330s will also offer the services during the summer of 2010, and all future Oman A330s will be equipped with SBB-supported connectivity, Oman CEO Peter Hill reveals to ATI.

"In order to fully enrich the traveller's flight experience, we felt that it was important to offer both [mobile and Internet] services on Oman Air flights. In today's wired world, the two converging trends have greyed the distinction between mobile and Internet and a passenger today expects both capabilities or services."

He adds: "We are confident that this high 'value-added' service will set the connectivity standard in the aviation industry within a relatively short span of time."

Oman's widebody fleet strategy also includes orders for six Boeing 787s. Asked if Oman expects these twinjets to be delivered with SBB or another form of connectivity, Hill says: "The first of our 787s are due in early 2014, which is more than four years away. We all know that there has always been a very healthy competitive spirit between Boeing and Airbus, so I am sure that Boeing will do everything in its power to ensure that they stay competitive with their main rivals. So it would be reasonable to expect that the 787s, when they are finally delivered, will be equipped with appropriate on-board connectivity."

Oman's narrowbody fleet, meanwhile, comprises 13 Boeing 737-800s and two 737-700s, according to Flightglobal's ACAS database.

"At this stage, we don't have any plans to retrofit our existing Boeing 737NG fleet. However, we will continue to monitor the uptake and success of SBB on the A330s and if the signs are positive then we will certainly consider this as an possible option," says Hill.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news