DN - Defence Notes

Royal Jordanian is second Middle Eastern carrier to go OnAir

23rd February 2009 - 16:49 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Onboard cellphone provider OnAir continues its bright start to the year, announcing that Royal Jordanian has introduced its service on a single Airbus A319 operating within the Middle East and on routes to Europe, India and North Africa.

The carrier is reported to be planning to offer OnAir on a further eight aircraft – four A320-200s and a similar number of A321-200s. Significantly, it is enabling the voice capability of the OnAir system right from the start. Other capabilities are text messaging and email with mobile phones and BlackBerries, and Internet access with GSM data-capable laptops.

This is OnAir’s third launch announcement since the beginning of the year. Kuwaiti premium start-up Wataniya Airways got the ball rolling last month when it became the first carrier to offer the OnAir service on a full commercial basis. Last week Ryanair pressed the button on a massive 20-aircraft trial that looks likely to turn into a definitive fleet fit on more than 180 aircraft.

OnAir is also being trialled by bmi of the UK and TAP Portugal, and completed its first ever trial, with Air France, last summer. “Air France and their passengers were very happy with the service and found that voice calling raised no issues in the cabin,” OnAir chief executive Benoit Debains said last week. “Now we are working on a deal to suit them.”

Debains said he expected to have a total of 14 committed airlines by the end of this year. Among those already announced, Malaysian operators Air Asia and Air Asia X are set to be the next to launch the service, followed by British Airways on its new London City-New York service in September, TAM of Brazil in the third quarter, and Oman Air by the end of the year. Other announced customers are Airblue of Pakistan, Jazeera, Kingfisher and Shenzhen Airlines.

OnAir launch carrier Wataniya announced yesterday that it expected to receive the second of its initial fleet of four leased Airbus A320s on Thursday, ready for the launch of service to Beirut from the beginning of March. The airline’s fleet is expected to expand to at least seven aircraft next year and to as many as a dozen in the medium term.

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