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BA: In-flight mobile for new aircraft only

BA's chief executive has said the airline will not retrofit in-flight mobile comms to aircraft already in service as it would prove too expensive
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has said the airline will not extend in-flight mobile comms to any of its aircraft already in service.

BA is currently planning to launch a mobile email, web-browsing and texting service from OnAir on two new Airbus A318 aircrafts in September of this year.

However, it would cost BA too much to fit similar systems to its current aircraft, Walsh told the Sita Air Transport IT Summit 2009 conference in Cannes on Wednesday.

"We are not planning to retrofit the equipment to existing aircraft because we believe it will be too expensive," he said. "This is a product that works best when fitting to aircraft you are taking delivery of, and we may fit to other new aircraft."

He added the airline currently has no plans to let travellers make mobile-phone calls during its flights, as its customers are not interested in such a service.

"The research we have done on voice tells us that the vast majority of customers do not want it. It is not impossible but there is no demand for that product," he said.

Sita's Airline IT Trends Survey 2009 shows 70 percent of the 116 global aircraft carriers surveyed plan to introduce Wi-Fi and GSM/GPRS connectivity for short haul flights by 2012, and around 65 percent for long haul flights.

BA chief information officer Paul Coby predicted "exciting" new developments in in-flight passenger comms on new aircraft but warned it is essential for these communications to be "firewalled and separate from the cockpit".

He added that Sita is looking at how modern telecommunications capabilities could be used to automatically transmit and log flight data, such as that currently recorded on black-box recorders, to airline databases.

"That is something we really want to be thinking seriously about with the new technology that is available," he said.

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