- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Agence France-Presse) — Dubai carrier Emirates said it will become in January the world’s first airline to introduce in-flight cell-phone services after fitting its fleet with safety equipment.

“Emirates will install a system that allows passengers the choice of safely using their own mobile phones to make and receive phone calls and text messages from Emirates aircraft,” a statement said.

The carrier expects to introduce the service on one of its Boeing 777s as early as January, “once all necessary approvals are granted.”

European airlines also are planning to start trial use of cell phones on board their planes starting early next year.

Emirates said it was investing $27 million to fit its fleet with equipment supplied by AeroMobile, a major provider of in-flight mobile services.

“The AeroMobile aircraft systems ensure that passenger mobile phones operate at their minimum power settings thereby allowing their safe use on the aircraft,” Emirates said.

Cell phones will be used only at cruise altitude, as are other electronic devices, and cabin crew members will have full control over the system.

“The number of calls that may be made at any one time is also limited to a maximum of five or six calls, the same number as for the current in-seat phones used regularly by Emirates’ passengers,” the statement said.

The service will allow passengers to send and receive text messages, with charges in line with international roaming rates.

“Our customers are already making more than 6,000 calls a month from our in-seat phones, so we will be making life easier,” said Emirates Chairman Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

Cabin crew members will advise and encourage passengers to switch their phones to silent or vibrate mode when used in the aircraft.

The Middle East’s fastest-growing carrier is spending billions of dollars on expanding its fleet, which currently consists of 92 aircraft.

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