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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   2 min read

Have you ever sneaked a text message from your mobile while flying? Did you switch your cell phone on when the flight attendant wasn’t looking, just to see if you got a signal? The use of mobile phones in-flight has been a travel taboo for years, could it be changing? Some airlines are giving the thumbs up to chit-chatting while flying, is it good or bad news?

Earlier this year British Airways announced that the use of mobile devices would be allowed, starting this fall. Passengers will be able to send/receive text messages and emails during the flight and have access to internet. The service will only be introduced to business-class passengers and only on flights from London City Airport to New York JFK.

Many airlines however express reservations as does the general public. It’s awfully tempting to want to turn on your cell phone during your flight, send a twitter update while mid-air or check your text messages… only because it’s not allowed.

But really, do you want to sit in a confined space and listen to dozens of passengers gabbing away on their mobile phones for the entire flight? It’s a proven fact that people talk more loudly on their phones than they would face-to-face, now just imagine what it would be like on an air plane!

Airlines that allow mobile phones in-flight:

  • Air Emirates: for £2/min you can send/receive text messages and make voice calls on selected aircraft that have been outfitted with the appropriate system.
  • Air France: France’s national airline was the first to test OnAir mobile phone technology on international flights. After conducting a survey, more than 80% of passengers were in favour of text and email services.
  • Malaysia Airlines: The aircraft are outfitted with AeroMobile systems that allow passengers to make both voice calls and send/receive text messages.
  • BMI: Testing began in October 2009 but nothing has been permanently implemented. The airline does hope to be able to offer SMS messaging in the near future.
  • Qatar Airlines: The airline installed mobile services in all of its 22 aircraft. Passengers can browse the web, send SMS messages as well as emails. The airline has control over what services are enabled during which flights, which means that voice calls will be deactivated on long-haul flights to ensure the comfort of all passengers.

Many airlines, like JetStar and Qantas, refused to look into the service a few years ago but now might be reconsidering. Today it’s becoming natural to be connected wherever you are. They might consider a mobile service program that allows voice calls to be deactivated or implement a “quiet time” or “phone-free zone” during flights.

Tell us what you think! Would you like to be able to use your mobile phone during flights? What about texting and web browsing?

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