Emirates airline has launched the world's first commercial, in-flight mobile telephone service and will spend $27m (£14) to kit out its entire fleet with the technology.
The first authorised in-flight mobile call was made at 30,000ft on 21 March on Emirates flight EK751, flying between Dubai and Casablanca. The Airbus A340-300 has been equipped with an in-flight mobile system from UK-based company AeroMobile.
The AeroMobile system automatically activates once the aircraft reaches 20,000ft. A video then informs passengers that they can turn mobile phones on. Passengers then receive a free text from AeroMobile telling them to switch their mobiles to silent mode out of courtesy to their fellow passengers.
Calls can be made and received while the plane is at cruising altitude. The service also allows text messages to be sent and received. The system allows for a maximum of five or six calls to be made at once. Passengers using AeroMobile will be charged a premium roaming rate.
Emirates said a second aircraft in its fleet is due to be equipped with the in-flight mobile system shortly.
The airline, which signed up to the AeroMobile system back in 2006 and already offers phone calls, email and text messaging via an in-seat entertainment system across its entire fleet, said it will spend $27m to fit out its fleet with AeroMobile.
Emirates and AeroMobile said they are working to add the ability to receive BlackBerry email and other GPRS data applications to the system later this year.