Geneva, 2 April 2008 - Air France and OnAir today announced the launch of their inflight voice call service. Air France will be trialling the service, which is the first to offer passengers the full range of mobile communications services, including voice, SMS and email. Air France and OnAir have been trialling the first international inflight mobile phone service since 17 December 2007. During the first three months, passengers were able to send and receive SMS text messages and emails, including attachments. The Mobile OnAir service uses Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband satellite connectivity to transmit voice and data signals to and from the plane. Following positive feedback from passengers during the first half of the trial, passengers will now also be able to make and receive calls. The findings from the trial will enable Air France to decide which service customers prefer: data only or data and voice.
Starting today, passengers can use their mobile phones and GPRS devices to make and receive calls in exactly the same way as they do on the ground. To use the service, passengers simply need to have a roaming agreement, as when travelling abroad, and the cost for using the service is invoiced by their operator in the usual way.
The Air France / OnAir service is activated above 3,000 metres and allows up to six simultaneous calls, as well as unlimited SMS and emails, and is the only service to allow the downloading of email attachments.
Patrick Roux, Vice President Marketing Air France, said: “We are taking every opportunity to offer our customers the latest cabin innovations, while continuing to make travel comfort and their well-being our main priority. During the first three months of the trial, passenger feedback has been positive regarding the features, quality of transmission and user-friendliness of the service.”
Benoit Debains, CEO of OnAir, said: “Following the success of the trial so far, we are now adding the voice function. Air France is the world’s first carrier to offer the full capability of the inflight mobile phone service, and is able to do so because of OnAir’s SwiftBroadband solution.”
The Air France trial is running on an Airbus A318 operating on routes in Europe. Customers are informed about the service via seat-back leaflets and cabin crew announcements. As during the first part of the trial, customers will be able to give their opinion on this new service. Their feedback and comments will enable Air France to assess their level of satisfaction.
Mobile phones and GPRS can be used on aircraft equipped with the relevant technology, such as Mobile OnAir that has been certified by the airworthiness authorities. The passenger’s device connects to the OnAir system via a mini base-station on the aircraft, based around a picocell, which picks up signals from PDAs and phones and sends them to a satellite. From there, they go to OnAir’s ground network, then out to the public network.
The OnAir technology will allow up to 12 simultaneous calls per picocell, as well as unlimited SMS text messages and emails. If required, further picocells can be added, increasing the number of simultaneous calls.
Passenger will be able to turn on their mobile phones and GPRS devices and use them as if they were on the ground. To make a call on board the aircraft, passengers simply dial the international prefix (+) or 00 + country code + full number (without the 0).
About Air France
Air France operates 1,700 daily flights with a fleet of 393 aircraft, including 134 regional aircraft operated by its subsidiaries Britair, CityJet and Régional. Air France and KLM together gave birth to Europe’s leading air transport group in May 2004. Both airlines now offer their customers a combined network, which includes a total of 237 destinations in 104 countries. Air France is a founding member of SkyTeam, a global airline alliance that provides customers with worldwide destinations, flights and services. Air France was founded in 1933.
OnAir was incorporated in February 2005 and is owned by Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, and SITA, the world’s leading provider of air transport focused applications, communications and IT infrastructure.
OnAir’s goal is to give airline passengers the ability to communicate from the sky. The OnAir service portfolio addresses passenger voice and data communications needs on both long- and short-haul flights, on commercial Airbus and Boeing aircraft, while focusing on passengers’ needs, offering choice, and ensuring an economically viable business model for airlines. OnAir is a member of the GSM Association and an Inmarsat Distribution Partner for SwiftBroadband services.
For further information about Onair, click here