Qantas will introduce new technology from early 2007, which will enable customers to make and receive emails, SMS and calls via their own mobile phone or personal electronic devices such as Blackberrys. Qantas Group General Manager of Customer Product and Services, Ms Lesley Grant, said the airline would evaluate the technology over a three-month period on a Boeing 767 aircraft operating on Australian domestic routes.
“Qantas will be one of the first airlines in the world to offer this service.”
Ms Grant said Qantas’ research indicated that customers were increasingly demanding the same range of services in the air as those available on the ground.
“We have asked our business travellers about the concept, the overwhelming majority felt the service was a good idea, particularly email access. Most feel it will allow them to use their time more effectively in-flight, as a flight for many has become an integral part of their business day,” she said.
“This evaluation is the first step towards building a product, which will support our customers’ business and communication needs into the future. It is a terrific opportunity for us to work with our customers to shape the final product.
Ms Grant said Qantas will be actively seeking customer feedback to further refine the airline’s policy, which would include input on the protocols concerning use of mobile phones in-flight.
Qantas has teamed with Telstra, Panasonic Avionics Corporation and AeroMobile in the evaluation, to bring about a solution that will allow appropriate communication devices to be safely used inflight and not interfere with the ground network.
“The service will be simple to use. Customers wanting to make or receive a call or SMS require only a GSM phone and a global roaming account. While customers wanting to send or receive emails would need a GPRS enabled device like a Blackberry or an appropriately equipped laptop, Ms Grant said.
“The aircraft effectively operates as a single ‘GSM country’ in the sky, with passengers using the service as they do now, when overseas”.
Ms Grant said Qantas and its partners were working with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and other agencies to ensure the system operates in accordance with Australian regulatory and legal requirements.
Qantas has also been nominated at this year’s World Travel Awards in the category of Australasia’s Leading Airline.