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Gulf airlines join mobile phone movement

Jazeera Airways and Oman Air follow Emirates' lead, despite passenger concern.

Gulf carriers Jazeera Airways and Oman Air are the latest airlines to allow people to use mobiles phones during flights, despite concern from passengers.

Following the launch of the world’s first inflight mobile phone services by Emirates last month, numerous carriers have announced they will follow suit so not to be left behind in the highly competitive aviation sector.

Kuwaiti budget airline Jazeera said in a statement on Monday it would offer inflight mobile services starting this year, while Oman Air said on Tuesday it would launch a similar service in 2009.

Allowing passengers to use mobile phones on flights have been branded "unbearable" by the majority of respondents to a recent ArabianBusiness.com spot poll.

Respondents expressed concerns about being constantly distracted by annoying ringtones and people endlessly chatting away.

Both Jazeera and Oman Air will use an inflight mobile phone service from OnAir, a subsidiary of Airbus. Neither airline said how much they were spending to kit out their planes.

Passengers will be able to use their mobile phones and BlackBerry-type devices for voice calls, texts messages and emails, while Oman Air said it would also offer internet access.

The OnAir system will allow unlimited text messages and emails, and will allow up to 12 voice calls to take place at any one time on a plane. Cabin crew have the ability to turn the system off or block voice calls at any time.

Dubai-based Emirates in March launched an inflight mobile telephone service using a system called AeroMobile.

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

UK's communications regulator Ofcom has also given permission for mobile phone systems to be installed on British-registered planes, with UK airlines BMI and Ryanair announcing plans to install the technology this year.

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