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In-flight phone call plan confusing

Emirates Airline’s decision to allow the use of mobile phones on board flights could cause mayhem on board other airlines, some of the region’s main carriers have claimed.

Emirates Airline’s decision to allow the use of mobile phones on board flights could cause mayhem on board other airlines, some of the region’s main carriers have claimed.

Emirates will install a system across its entire fleet that allows passengers to make and receive calls and text messages at certain stages of the flight, starting from January 2007.

But some industry professionals, including Turkish Airlines’ regional director, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Sri Lanka, Lale Kaplan, believe the move will cause customer confusion: “If one airline allows passengers to use mobiles, it could prompt them to think they can do the same on other carriers, “ she told ATN.

“I think IATA or ICAO must advise something for all airlines,” she said.

According to Emirates, cabin crew will be trained to tell passengers to switch their phones to silent and instructional videos will hammer this message home.

“The option of mobile phone use will be available under guidelines that recognise and respect the privacy of all our customers,” assured HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline. He also said the number of calls would be limited to five or six at a time, and that crew would be able select an option where only text messages can be sent or received.

But while Emirates assures that restrictions will preserve the privacy of other passengers, some travel professionals believe mobile phones will become a menace.

“I think it would be annoying if someone near you were to talk on the phone throughout a long flight,” said Mahmoud M Kamel, Dubai sales manager, EgyptAir. “Or if they were always getting messages for example.”

However, according to Emirates, passengers already make around 6000 calls per month on phones on board aircraft, amounting to 250 hours.

In other airline technology news, passengers flying with Emirates, United, KLM, Air France, Delta and Continental will soon be able to integrate their iPods with the in-flight entertainment system. The carriers have teamed up with Apple, to develop a system that allows passengers to enjoy their own music and videos on their seat-back screens.
The technology will be introduced in aircraft by mid-2007.

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