Ryanair may not be a brand familiar to readers in all parts of the world, but in Europe, things are quite different. The carrier's claim of being 'Europe's favorite airline' is often disputed - but there's no doubting the fact that Ryanair is one of Europe's largest airlines, with a fleet of 300 Boeing 737-800s flying to 189 destinations in 30 countries, and a further 280 jets on firm order.
The massive low-cost carrier has announced a partnership with Vodafone Ireland, which will see the mobile operator providing "local and wide area network access, telephony, fixed line mobile 3G and 4G functionality" for the airline at every point on its route map throughout Europe and North Africa.
Vodafone's support will extend to communications and IT infrastructure across the airline's "ticketing, check-in, ground crew, inflight crew and pilot systems", so Ryanair will clearly be depending heavily on the mobile operator to maintain the continuity of its fleetwide operations.
Under the partnership, Ryanair will embark on a new Electronic Flight Bag program. The airline has opted to deploy Apple iPads to its pilots, making it the latest in a growing line of carriers to migrate to 'paperless cockpits'.
Pilots are required to carry extensive documentation onboard, including flight data and aircraft technical materials. In their paper form, these documents can weigh around 15kg or more, but they can be easily condensed into the much lighter and more convenient form factor of a tablet.
Switching to Electronic Flight Bags not only saves the pilot some weight in his or her bag - it also saves money for the airline. When American Airlines adopted iPads for its own paperless cockpit rollout, it projected that simply by stripping out the weight of all that paper from every flight in its schedules, it would save $1.2 million a year in fuel costs.
A further product of the partnership between Ryanair and Vodafone will be a new inflight sales system for the airline. Like most low-cost carriers, all refreshments on board must be purchased from the flight attendants, and it appears that some overhaul of this system is on the way, although further details were not provided.