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Ryanair races to grab cellphone high ground

19th February 2009 - 21:14 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Ryanair today started its long-awaited trial of OnAir onboard cellphone. “We’re euphoric to be launching Europe’s first fleetwide onboard mobile phone service,” Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said in Dublin this morning.

The Irish low-fare operator rocked the connectivity world by announcing that it would equip its entire 181-strong fleet if the six-month trial, in 22 mainly Dublin-based Boeing 737-800s, proved satisfactory. Further installations, carried out by Ryanair’s own engineering staff, will continue in the meantime, suggesting that the airline has already made up its mind.

The first ever big-bang launch of an onboard cellphone trial sees the service being heavily promoted on the aircraft, with eyecatching decals on overhead luggage bin doors, ads in the inflight magazine and PA announcements, and in the Ryanair Website.

Customers of Vodafone, O2 and another 50 European cellular providers can use the service, which costs Eur2-3/min for voice calls and about Eur0.50 to send a text message, depending on the mobile operators’ mark-up. Current system capacity per aircraft is six simultaneous voice calls and unlimited text messaging and mobile phone email, with the voice capability to be expanded to 12 calls by the end of the year. 

This is by far the biggest commitment to mobile phones on board since Emirates began rolling out the rival AeroMobile service last March. It means effectively that OnAir can now claim two substantial airline users, following the launch of service aboard Kuwait’s Wataniya Airways last month, and there are more to come.

“Our next launch will be with Royal Jordanian next Monday,” OnAir chief executive Benoît Debains said today. “Then will come Air Asia, followed by British Airways in September, TAM of Brazil some time in the third quarter, and Oman Air by year-end. Overall, I expect us to have secured a total of 14 operators by the end of December.”

See Inflight Online tomorrow for full story

The Shephard News Team


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