Emirates claims fleetwide inflight roaming

Emirates has announced it is to become the world’s first airline to
introduce in-flight mobile phone use for passengers across its entire
fleet.Emirates will install a system that allows passengers the choice of
safely using their own mobile phones to make and receive phone calls and
text messages from Emirates aircraft. Emirates will fully utilise the
capabilities of the system to ensure that passengers who wish to
communicate can do so conveniently and discreetly while preserving the
privacy of fellow travellers.

The Dubai-based carrier expects to launch the service on board one of
its Boeing 777s as early as January 2007, once all necessary approvals
are granted.

This announcement represents an investment of US$27 million by Emirates
to fit its fleet with the equipment supplied by AeroMobile, the
pioneering provider of inflight mobile services. The AeroMobile aircraft
systems ensure that passenger mobile phones operate at their minimum
power settings thereby allowing their safe use on the aircraft.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive,
Emirates Airline and Group said: “As the world leader in innovation for
our customers, we are delighted to offer the choice of mobile phone use
to passengers who would like to make contact with friends, family or
colleagues while flying with us.

“The option of mobile phone use will be available under guidelines that
recognise and respect the privacy of all our customers.

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“Our customers are already making more than 6,000 calls a month from our
in-seat phones, so we will be making life easier for those for whom
staying in touch using their mobile phone has become an indispensable
part of their everyday lives. Our research tells us our customers would
appreciate the option of staying in touch in this way.”

Emirates cabin staff and information videos will advise and encourage
passengers to switch their phones to silent or vibrate mode when used in
the aircraft.

Phones may only be used at cruise altitude and the cabin crew will have
full control over the system, including the ability to prevent voice
calls at certain times such as during night flights. The number of calls
that may be made at any one time is also limited to a maximum of five or
six calls, the same number as for the current in-seat phones used
regularly by Emirates’ passengers.

The service will also allow passengers to send and receive text
messages, with charges in line with international roaming rates.

Although inflight calls have traditionally been regarded as an expensive
and little used service on many airlines, Emirates’ strategy of
operating the service at affordable and subsidised rates has resulted in
one of the highest usages in the industry. Currently, this exceeds
13,000 minutes of talk time every month from passengers’ in-seat
telephones connected via satellite services - reflecting the high value
users place on the ability to keep in touch with their relatives,
friends and business associates. The implementation of the AeroMobile
system on Emirates aircraft will make this capability even more
convenient with Emirates’ passengers being able to use their own phones,
access their address books and contact lists, and have calls billed to
their regular phone bills as with any other roaming call.

Emirates and AeroMobile plan to add GPRS data and internet capability to
the system as soon as the necessary satellite communications systems are
upgraded later in 2007. This will allow the use of BlackBerrys(r), Palm
Treos(r) and mobile data-enabled PDAs and laptop PCs for email and
Internet access from the aircraft.

AeroMobile president David Poltorak said: “We are delighted that
Emirates has taken the lead in introducing our service across its fleet.
This is a historic step forward for the aviation industry.

“We believe that the ability to communicate efficiently, easily and
safely when on board flights will become an essential feature of
business and leisure travel.”

On aircraft where the AeroMobile system is not installed, existing rules
banning the use of mobile phones by passengers remain in force at all
times. Mobile phones must remain switched off for the duration of the
flight in accordance with current aviation regulatory requirements, and
passengers must continue to follow the instructions of the cabin staff
at all times regarding the use of mobile phones and other portable
electronic devices. 
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