Ryanair has become the first airline in the UK and Ireland to offer mobile calls during flights. The launch on 20 of its Dublin based aircraft today comes as its first step to rolling out the service across its 170 pan-European fleet within 18 months.
The low-cost carrier has been keen to introduce the system since last year, but has been waiting for authorisation from European regulators.“Today’s launch is the first step to offering in-flight mobile phone services on board our entire fleet,” said Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary. “We expect customer demand for the service to grow rapidly and hope that customers of all UK mobile operators will soon be able to call or text home from 30,000 feet.”
Passengers on Ryanair’s 20 OnAir enabled aircraft can now make and receive voice calls using their mobile phones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones. A maximum of six people will be allowed to make calls at a time, however this may increase to 14.
The service will initially be available to O2 customers in the UK, as well as over 50 other mobile phone operators across Europe. OnAir confirmed that it is working with other UK mobile operators (including Vodafone, Orange and 3) to implement inflight network coverage.
Benoit Debains, CEO of OnAir, said, “This European fleet-wide rollout marks a real milestone in aviation. We are proud to work with Ryanair and to provide their 67 million passengers with access to this new technology which will enable them to send and receive emails, text messages, download attachments and make and receive calls just as they would on the ground.”
Calls will cost between £1.50 and £3 per minute, text messages will cost 40p each and emails will cost between £1 and £2. These price tariffs are set by each mobile service provider and are subject to each customer’s individual price plan.
Emirates became the world’s first airline to introduce in-flight calls last year March, with 31 of its 128 aircraft now offering the service.
Last month British Airways said it would allow text messaging on its business-class flights from London City Airport to New York JFK, but has held back on allowing inflight calls pending customer feedback.
BMI began testing a text messaging service in December, though it has said that it is unlikely to introduce voice calls, partly because of a lack of public support.
Other carriers that have begun testing inflight technology include Air Portugal, Qantas, Air France, Qantas, Oman Air and Royal Jordanian. Meanwhile Lufthansa has ruled out using the service.