Article by Ogova Ondego, Published March 30, 2008
Since March 20, 2008 when the first “legal” mobile phone call was made from a commercial flight, OGOVA ONDEGO writes, it now looks like air travellers will no longer hear messages like “Electronic devices: laptop computers, remote-controlled games, radios, portable TVs and mobile phones�may not be used during taxiing, take off, climbing, descend and landing as they may interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft,” “Sir, please put off your phone!”, “Under no circumstance may mobile phones be used on this flight.”
The historical in-flight cell phone call, reports Tourism-Review.Com, was made from an Emirates Airbus A340-300 aircraft that is equipped with the AeroMobile system that makes mobile phone calls during flight safe. According to Tourism-Review.Com, the Dubai-based Emirates airline is going to invest some US$27 million to equip their fleet with the system. Quoting Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Emirates Airline and Group, Tourism-Review.Com says the company is the world leader in innovation.
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“The Emirates’ aircrafts are already equipped with in-seat phones and email and text messaging capabilities via the in-seat entertainment system. The airline�s customers are nowadays making approximately 7,000 calls a month from the in-seat phones and the possibility to use their own mobile phone should make the flight even more comfortable,” Tourism-Review.Com reports, adding that “travelers will, however, be allowed to make only some 5 or 6 calls and the services will not be active for the whole time of the flight.”
Among other services that Emirates and AeroMobile plan to roll out are the use of BlackBerry to type an email and other GPRS data applications. That Dubai–described by Zee Gilmore in Msafiri, the Kenya Airways in-flight magazine as “a little more than a pearl-fishing village where camels outnumbers people” barely a century ago that has been transformed into “a modern metropolis forged from trade, oil and tourism”–is in the forefront in allowing in-flight mobile phone service is hardly surprising.
After all, this city-state that continues to rise out of the desert whose ingenuity in reclaiming land from the sea–as demonstrated by manmade islands like The Palm Jumeirah and The World–appears to be rivalled only by that of the Dutch.
Other airlines working on improving their services, Tourism-Review.Com says, include Qantas that will make it possible for its customers to send text messages during the flight, and Kingfisher Airline and Air India that will provide in-flight cell phone calls.
Meanwhile, passengers going through Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London are from April 1, 2008 expected to pay more for using these London’s main airports. By 2013, airport fees at Heathrow and Gatwick are expected to increase by 50% and 21%, respectively.
According to Tourism-Review.Com, “The level of increase shall start at 23.5% this year yet will have to move up by a further 7.5% in the next 4 years to keep in touch with inflation.”
This move, that has been criticised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), follows the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to increase the average layout of all customers passing through Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
Dubai City rises out of the sea. Pic courtesy of Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing,Government of Dubai, www.dubaitourism.ae
Tourism-Review.Com quotes Giovanni Bisignani, the head of the IATA, as saying that “the increases are the result of a monopoly business, with no success for the airports to blame the increases on.”
Tourism-Review.Com says Bisignani expresses fear “for Heathrow and Gatwick in terms of the fact that passengers could turn their attention elsewhere and use other airports in the EU.”