Air France Tests Cell Services

Air France has become the first airline to offer international passengers e-mail and text-messaging service that's based on standard cell phone technology. The catch: It's only available on a single Airbus A318 aircraft in the Air France fleet, and passengers won't know ahead of time whether the service will be available on their flight. "That will be a surprise every day," Air France spokeswoman Marina Tymen said Thursday. "They will be aware of that just when they look at the information leaflet and the questionnaire (in the seat pocket) in front of them." Another clue: a new "no mobile" light next to ones for "no smoking" and "fasten your seat belt."

The six-month trial, which launched Monday on a Paris-to-Warsaw flight, will initially be limited to messaging and e-mail on passengers' cell phones with GSM technology, the kind prevalent outside the United States. Voice calling will come later. The airline equipped the A318 with an onboard cell "tower," allowing phones to communicate without interfering with navigational equipment, officials say. The onboard tower connects with the ground through a satellite system. The setup, approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency, was provided by OnAir, a Geneva-based joint venture between Airbus and SITA, an information-technology company serving airlines.

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As soon as the airlines realise they can boost profits somewhat by offering overpriced in-flight mobile access, it'll be everywhere. This is regardless of the annoyance it will cause fellow passengers. At least with normal transport it's easy enough to get up and move (in the most extreme cases).

"Voice calling will come later."

oh god no..... no no no no no no no leave it at txt and email please!!!

i'm gana be ****ed if this becomes standard and i'm gana feel SOO bad for the flight attendents if it happens. they have to deal with enough crap already, people talking loudly on cellphones is gana make it hell

*pilots request everyone to close their windows as its time to go to sleep*

some idiot on the plane shouts: "HELLO MATE, I'M ON THE PLANE RIGHT NOW. WE'RE FLYING OVER THE ATLANTIC, YES I CANT HEAR YOU, SPEAK LOUDER. CAN YOU HEAR ME? GOOD AT FECKING LAST, I WILL BE THERE IN 7 HOURS. YES I KNOW, IM SURE NO ONE CAN HEAR ME"

everyone else on the plane: stfu