Frequent European and International travelers are well versed in Air France’s e-services and have been using these new e-services since 2007.  Unfortunately, most Americans are have no idea this technology even exists simply because the American airline industry and the American Government are against passengers using mobile phones, pda., etc. aboard commercial aircraft.

This post is intended for the uninformed American readers who don’t have a clue to other countries technologies…

PRESS RELEASE Air France and OnAir announced the launch of a trial of inflight voice calls.  Wednesday 2 April 2008

Air France and OnAir today announced the launch of a trial of inflight voice calls. Air France’s is the first inflight mobile phone service to offer the full range of mobile communications services, including voice, SMS and email.

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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 this service are 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.”…

Notes to editors:

1.     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.

2.     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.

3.     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).

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SMS text messages are a cost-effective and discreet way of staying in touch onboard. OnAir allows you to send and receive text messages from your mobile phone or the in-seat system.

Using your mobile phone

With Mobile OnAir, you simply turn on your GSM mobile phone after take-off to send and receive text messages. The messages you send are invoiced at rates in line with international roaming charges. There is no charge for receiving a message on your mobile phone inflight.

Mobile OnAir also supports multimedia messages (MMS), so that you can send that photo you just took with your mobile phone in the aircraft to a friend.

Using the aircraft’s onboard system

Even without your own mobile phone, you can still enjoy the convenience of exchanging short text messages with friends, family and colleagues through the in-seat phones or seatback screens on aircraft served by OnAir. You have the option to send short text messages to any mobile phone number or email address.

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