Kingfisher Airlines, the Indian low-cost carrier, on Wednesday said it would introduce in-flight mobile phone capability, underlining the increasing interest in the technology.
Kingfisher will initially fit the technology on 10 of its aircraft, but is looking to expand the offering to its entire fleet of 158 aircraft. From next year, passengers will be able to use web chat and web mail, with mobile phoning and full internet access available in 2009.
The push to introduce the technology appears to have reached a turning point. Ryanair, the European low-cost airline, is this week fitting out its first aircraft, as part of a plan to extend it to the rest of its fleet. Meanwhile, Shenzhen Airlines, a Chinese carrier, announced on Monday that it would introduce the capability in an effort to lure more business travellers.
In-flight mobile phones are being led by two companies. OnAir, which is partly owned by Airbus and signed the deal with Kingfisher, is competing against Aero-
Mobile, which is owned by Arinc of the US and Telenor of Norway. AeroMobile is working with Panasonic, the Japanese electronics group.
OnAir had a European breakthrough in June when its technology was cleared by the European Aviation Safety Agency. US regulators, however, have refused to allow any in-flight mobile phone technology.
AeroMobile expects to announce soon another four airline deals, three of them in the Asia-Pacific region.
Peter Tuggey, AeroMobile’s chief commercial officer, said the growing order book reflected Asians’ embrace of new consumer electronics technology as well as their more relaxed attitude to phoning in public.
He said: “We’re seeing a lot of interest in Asia. If you look at the way mobile phones are used, Asians are generally using them in very densely populated areas, so the social concerns are perhaps handled in a different way.”