In-flight cell phone usage is coming

Despite relatively overwhelming public opinion that no one wants to sit on an airplane where others can talk on their phones, airlines seem to be moving that direction. JetBlue has a single plane in service (“Beta Blue” – they give all their planes cute “blue” names) with access to Yahoo Mobile services and BlackBerry connectivity (with WiFi models). It is based on land-based towers for connectivity to the planes, so it won’t work on flights over oceans, and the functionality and performance have been less than stellar so far. At least JetBlue is limiting the access so voice traffic isn’t available. At the same time, general Internet usage is also limited, so it isn’t all good.

Looking to make progress on the other side of the Atlantic, Air France has also put a plane in service with similar functionality. Some differences on the Air France side include the connectivity going via satellite, so there is a chance that it will work over the oceans, and the reliance on GSM phone service instead of WiFi computer service for the connections. And despite the claims in the NY Times article linked above, Air France specifically claims that they are not going to be enabling voice services on the planes. Here’s hoping they hold to that.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.