It’s happened. We’re now upwardly mobile – at least on one airline.
The budget carrier, Ryanair, has become the first European carrier to offer the chance to use a mobile phone while in flight. Passengers can now call, text and email above 10,000 feet.
Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said the service had been brought in as a result of demand. “It will allow passengers to keep in touch with the office, family or friends.”
At present, only people on the O2 and Vodafone networks can use the service, but Ryanair is negotiating with other operators.
The Daily Telegraph’s Travel News Editor, Charles Starmer-Smith, who tried out the new service, said: “The voices [of mobile users] did not travel as far as many feared and, indeed, were hard to hear above the background noise in the cabin.”
“The technology is impressive – my call home connected within seconds (despite going via satellite into Monaco and back to London). There was no speech delay and the voice was clear enough.”
I have to say that in most of the commentaries I’ve read this week, very few people are relishing the prospect. Carolyn Hitt, of the Western Mail, for example: “Flights were the last refuge from enforced eavesdropping. But just when you thought a wailing baby or snorer were the worst passengers to turn up on the other side of your window seat, you could now be stuck next to a text maniac.”
by Andy Moreton
One of the few places free of cell-phone disturbance has always been on an aircraft, but this may soon be coming to an end, at least on British planes.
The British telecoms watchdog, Ofcom, has given the go-ahead for the service to be offered. The wavelengths needed to make calls will be allocated to aircraft, although one or two obstacles have yet to be overcome.
The European Aviation Safety Agency will have to approve the equipment itself and be satisfied it won’t interfere with the aircraft’s instrumentation. And the Civil Aviation Authority will also have to set the rules governing phone use in the air.
Mobile phone calls had previously been banned because the strength of a handset’s signal interfered with sensitive aircraft equipment. But new technology has enabled the signal to be weakened because it has only to reach a transmitter at the back of the plane rather than a mast some distance away.
Under the Ofcom proposals, the transmitter would be switched on by the cabin crew after the plane reached 3,000 feet.
Not everyone will be thrilled by the prospect. Last July, the British national newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, began a campaign against the use of mobiles on planes and almost 6,000 people signed an online petition.
by Andy Moreton