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V Australia disappointment for AeroMobile

4th October 2008 - 01:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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IN A development that will dismay connectivity provider AeroMobile, Australia’s Virgin Blue group has announced that the continuing strike by production workers at Boeing means that the launch of the new V Australia long-haul carrier will be delayed beyond the mid-December target date.

V Australia was in line to become the second carrier to introduce AeroMobile services, following their launch by Emirates in March. But Boeing has now advised V Australia that it can’t predict the duration of the dispute, which began on September 6 and put a stop to all assembly work, and is thus unable to guarantee a date for delivery of the first of the carrier’s six 777-300ERs.

The carrier has three aircraft at an advanced stage of construction. In the absence of any further guidance from Boeing, it is hoping that it will be able to launch two and a half months late, at the end of February

This hiccup opens the way for another Australian carrier, Qantas, to be the next into the ring for AeroMobile. Qantas completed a successful trial of AeroMobile’s onboard mobile phone service at the beginning of the year and is now planning to roll it out across its domestic fleet in the coming months.

The service will allow passengers travelling on Qantas’ Airbus A330-200s and Boeing 767-300s within Australia and on routes to New Zealand to send and receive email and text messages via their own mobile phones, BlackBerries and other GSM devices. The air-to-ground link is supported by Inmarsat’s 432kbit/sec SwiftBroadband service.

Curiously, Qantas has contracted with AeroMobile rival OnAir for chat, email and Internet services on its Airbus A380s. The airline plans to offer inflight chat and email services on its first A380 when it enters service later this month, and to introduce Internet access from the middle of next year.

AeroMobile also has contracts with Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines, and says it is in advanced negotiations with another four carriers. The company anticipates a number of milestones in the near future. They include the first line fit on a Boeing (a 777-300ER), the first delivery of its technology incorporated with Panasonic Avionics’ eX2 IFE system, and installations on other Boeing types such as the 737.

The Shephard News Team

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