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Emirates calls in era of mobiles on planes

First authorised mobile phone call on commercial flight made on Emirates Airbus A340-300.

Dubai-based airline Emirates said on Thursday it has become the first carrier in the world to launch an inflight mobile telephone service.

It said the first authorised mobile phone call made from a commercial flight was made on Thursday at 30,000 feet onboard an Emirates Airbus A340-300 aircraft travelling from Dubai to Casablanca.

The aircraft is the first in the Emirates fleet to be equipped with the AeroMobile system, which ensures that passenger mobile phones operate at minimum power so as not to interfere with aircraft electronics.

Emirates said it would invest $27 million to fit its fleet with the AeroMobile system.

A second Emirates aircraft, a Boeing 777-300, has already been installed with the system and will be in operation shortly, the airline said.

Emirates said passengers would be restricted to making a maximum of five or six calls during a flight, and cabin crew were able to control the system and block voice calls at certain times, such as during night flights.

It said the service would only be activated when an aircraft is at cruising altitude and cabin crew would advise passengers to switch their phones to silent or vibrate mode when used in the aircraft.

Mobile phone users will be charged in line with premium international roaming rates, which will be billed on their regular phone bills by their own service providers, the airline said.

On aircraft where the AeroMobile system is not installed, existing rules banning the use of mobile phones by passengers remain in force at all times, it said.