Ryanair weeks away from offering in-flight mobile phone service

An article posted by The Register this morning reports that Irish low cost carrier Ryanair is just a few weeks away from launching in-flight mobile phone service.

The service will be provided by OnAir, a joint venture between SITA and Airbus, which was setup to bring Internet, phone and text messaging service to the skies.

Mobile phone calls will cost £2 per minute, which at the current exchange rate translates to just under $4. At launch, the service will only be available to passengers with a mobile phone on the UK’s O2 and Three networks. The technology allows 6 simultaneous calls from each plane and the required equipment will first be introduced on 14 Dublin based Ryanair planes.

In a time where airlines are scrambling to find ways to generate more revenue, I doubt Ryanair will be the last airline to try and tap into the lucrative mobile phone market. It is however ironic that the low cost carriers are among the first to introduce these new services.

Mobile phone service on flights won’t be coming to the States any time soon, as the FCC has not lifted the ban on in-flight phone service. The upside to this, is that you won’t have to deal with a seatmate blabbering on his phone for the entire flight.

Block on in-flight Internet phone calls bypassed – for now

When airlines (slowly) started introducing in-flight Internet access to their flights, they were very quick to point out that “VOIP calls” would not be possible. VOIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol”, and basically means making phone calls over the Internet. All popular VOIP applications like Skype and Vonage have been blocked.

The airlines, and the provider behind the service obviously do not want a plane full of people chatting on the phone, yelling loudly about how they just made a fortune on the stock market. The other reason is of course because each flight only has a limited amount of data to share between all the passengers. If half the plane suddenly starts calling their aunts and uncles, regular web browsing would become impossible when all the bandwidth is sucked up by phone chatter.

Of course, when you tell people they can’t do something, their natural response is to see how they can prove you wrong. It took a week, but the block on VOIP calls has been successfully bypassed. By using a web service called Phweet, passengers have been able to make phone calls to their friends. The system only works with people who have a Twitter account, but it’s better than nothing. Of course, now this workaround has been published, it will only be a matter of time before the fun comes to an end, and the creative minds will have to find another working solution.

(Source: Wired)

Flight attendants to become the porn police

Back in December, when Aaron posted about the etiquette questions raised by In-flight Internet, he wrote the prevailing thought was that “decency, good sense and normal behavior” would prevail.

According to this article at FoxNews.com, just in case decency, good sense and normal behavior go out the window, flight attendants will become the porn police.

I imagine that while the flight attendant is taking your money for your snack and beverage that used to be complimentary, but isn’t anymore, he or she can give a peek at your screen to see what you’re surfing and shut you down if you forget you’re not in the comfort of your own home or tucked back in your office cubicle.

If your neighbor is getting grossed out or upset by your viewing, the flight attendant will appear to put an end to the shenanigans.

Some airlines, the article reports, will put a block on sites which should give the attendants a break so they can do other important tasks like make sure they give back correct change when you purchase water so you won’t die of thirst before the flight ends.

Airlines that either do or will filter sites when Internet is made available: JetBlue Airways, Continental and Qantas.

Airlines that will or already do let you surf without a filter, and hope that you use common sense when you do so: Northwest, American, Delta, Alaskan Airlines and Virgin.

Here are concerns being raised: What is pornography or not appropriate content and under what circumstances? Different people have different lenses with which they view what is appropriate. Here are two examples given:

  • A child sitting next to a person watching an R-rated movie that is either sexually explicit or violent
  • A person surfing a Victoria Secret lingerie catalog could be disconcerting as well.

As the article also points out, the reason why these issues are felt so strongly when people fly is that they are confined and can not escape from what is distasteful. You can’t move seats and you can’t get off.

Although flight attendants are trained to deal with conflict, as you may have noticed if you read Gadling comments whenever a flight issue is posed, there are a lot of stresses from flying as it is. It seems to me that Internet may be great to have, but could be adding more trouble than it’s worth.

Alaska Air: (Another) First Airline to Offer In-Flight WiFi

There seems to be a WiFi battle going on between airlines — each is scrambling to be the first to offer in-flight wireless connections. Last month American Airlines said it would be the first. And before that, we got a tip that Southwest Airlines might start offering the service.

To Alaska Air’s credit, they’re only claiming to be the first airline to test the in-flight service. The company will begin trying Row 44’s system, a satellite-based service that is designed to work over water and across international borders. If all goes well, the airline could add wireless to each of its 114 planes. That’s good news for me, since I fly Alaska almost exclusively.

As for the cost of this convenience? The article only states that Alaska is “researching various pricing options.” But if you’re in economy class, I wouldn’t expect economy prices.

[via Reuters]

Southwest Airlines to Offer In-flight WiFi?

Sister-site Engadget got a tip from an inside source that a Southwest Airlines company presentation twice mentioned that “Inflight wireless internet connectivity” was being looked into for the low-cost carrier. Personally, I’d welcome the opportunity to do some in-flight browsing. When I fly domestically, nine times out of ten it’s with Southwest, and I wouldn’t hesitate shelling out a few extra bucks for Internet access — especially since their ticket rates are so competitive.

Southwest Airlines has seen a decline in numbers this quarter, and they’ve been announcing new features and re-evaluating old ones in an attempt to “generate more money without destroying what Southwest stands for,” said the Cranky Flier. Southwest has a high reputation to stand up to, but — unless they really screw up by changing things like A-B-C boarding — I’m not too worried. Bring on the wireless Internet!