bmi intends to become the first British airline offering an in-flight mobile phone service to passengers travelling to major business destinations out of Heathrow.
bmi is preparing to pilot the service on an Airbus A320 in late 2006 by which time partner OnAir expects that the on-board equipment developed for it by Airbus, Siemens and other partners will be fully certified and the necessary telecommunications regulatory approvals will be in place, permitting the safe use of mobile phones in-flight for the first time.
“We are very excited about partnering with OnAir to make this service available to passengers in 2006,” said bmi chief executive officer Nigel Turner. “This pilot will guide us on usage patterns and some of the social issues in using mobile phones on aircraft. It will also help us to confirm the business case for rolling the service out across the remainder of the fleet. Initially we would hope to install the equipment in our short to medium-haul Airbus aircraft,” said Turner.
The target market for bmi will include business and leisure travellers to its destinations in Europe.
“Our research tells us that our premium passengers have two key concerns. These are getting quickly through the airport and the ability to carry on working during their journey,” said the bmi CEO.
“The OnAir offering opens up an exciting new era for the business traveller allowing them the use of their own GSM mobile phones and other GPRS-enabled devices such as the Blackberry, to make and receive voice calls or to send and receive SMS or emails during the flight. We are sure that many travellers will welcome this expansion of their ability to keep in touch while in the air,” Turner added.
George Cooper, OnAir CEO, said, “We are very pleased to have such a trend-setting partner taking up the OnAir service. bmi is the second largest airline operating out of Heathrow and its route network matches perfectly with our strategy of making mobile telephony available economically on short to medium-haul flights in Europe.”