Onboard telecommunications provider OnAir today announced its first European airline fleet customer, with Irish low cost carrier Ryanair set to offer the service across its entire fleet of Boeing 737-800s. 

The SITA and Airbus joint venture OnAir service will be trialled by Air France, BMI and TAP Air Portugal on single aircraft, but Ryanair is the first airline to commit to having the service available on all of its 371 routes operated throughout Europe. Ryanair has an entire -800 fleet since phasing out its -200s.

Ryanair’s customers will be able to use their own mobile telephones above altitudes of 10,000ft (3,000m) for the cost of a standard roaming call set by their network provider.  Both Ryanair and OnAir will take an undisclosed percentage of the roaming charge.  When asked about the commercial benefit to Ryanair, chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “The amount is confidential, but small.  It is performance incentive based.  We will be encouraging customers to make as many calls and text messages as possible.”

The service is compatible with Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) voice and text standard and the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) data transfer standard, used by portable email devices such as Research In Motion Blackberrys. The service will not initially be compatible with Third Generation technology (3-G). Chief executive of OnAir, George Cooper said that “When ownership of 3-G phones increases, we will look to upgrade the system.”

Subject to telecommunications regulations, OnAir and Ryanair expect the first 50 aircraft, including all of Ryanair’s fleet based at London Stansted airport, to be equipped with the service by July next year.  The partnership expects all of the fleet to have OnAir’s onboard mobile communications solution by mid-2008.

O’Leary says that this venture is “clearly a trial; If it doesn’t work commercially, it will come back off”


Source: FlightGlobal.com