British Airways yesterday announced plans to launch OnAir's inflight mobile communications service on its new twice daily, all business-class service from London City Airport to New York City's JFK Airport. Passengers on the new service will be able to stay connected during the flight using their mobile phones, BlackBerry-type devices or laptops fitted with GSM (mobile phone) data cards to send and receive text messages and emails, and to access the internet.
"This is a great service for our customers whom we know want to do business in the air or simply stay in touch via email or text," said Willie Walsh, British Airways' chief executive. "It's a perfect fit for our new business class only services from London City airport to JFK which we will launch later this year."
Passengers will benefit from high-speed connectivity delivered through OnAir's mobile communications technology, which uses the GSM/GPRS network. OnAir is also the only existing commercial in-flight communications provider to use Inmarsat SwiftBroadband, high capacity services from Inmarsat fourth generation satellites.
Airlines equipped with OnAir services can choose to provide voice and data or data services only, depending on time of the day and passenger preferences. Voice calls may be allowed in future, subject to customer demand and feedback, but Walsh said customer surveys showed a clear majority were still against such a move.
While most other airlines already allow voice calls, it would represent a dramatic change of heart on the part of BA, which has until now argued that passengers want the peace and quiet of a mobile-free zone.
"We are delighted to be working with British Airways, one of the world's flagship carriers, to provide the highest available standard of in-flight passenger connectivity and to introduce the service on this premium route," said OnAir chief executive officer Benoit Debains. "British Airways has long been regarded as an industry leader and innovator, and we look forward to helping them succeed in this new trans-Atlantic service."
A growing number of commercial airlines either currently offer OnAir inflight communications services or plan to offer them in the near future, including Air Asia, bmi, Jazeera Airways, Kingfisher, Royal Jordanian, Ryanair, Shenzhen Airlines, and TAM.