Emirates to become first cell phone-friendly airline

Atlanta (GA) - After years of getting used to the taboo of mobile phones on airplanes, Middle East-based Emirates Airlines is aiming to shake things up, by becoming what CNN claims is the first commercial air transportation company to allow passengers to use their cell phones during flights, with a current plan to start offering the service next month.

Cellphones traditionally have been banned during flights because of concerns of interference with the wireless communication systems used by pilots. Later, though, it became more about offering expensive in-flight phones that charge passengers dollars per minute as the exclusive means of ground communication.

There has been increasing discussion throughout the year about cell phones and airplanes, and whether the wireless signals actually interfere with the navigation and communication systems used by pilots. With the new service to be introduced by Emirates, it is assumedly not a big problem.

Emirates would not offer cell phone calls for free, though. However, they would only reportedly cost less than $2 a minute on Emirates. An airline company in Australia is also thinking of installing an infrastructure that would allow for in-flight cell phone calls.

Currently, there are no solid plans for US airlines to rollout plans for cell phone usage. According to airline consultant Michael Boyd, "There's no economic incentive for them to do it. Domestically they're not going to bring anyone extra on to their airplane with that service."

According to a survey conducted by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, though, 61% of business travelers don't even want airlines to offer cell phone use during flights. It could easily turn a flight into an annoying atmosphere with constant, loud one-sided conversations echoing throughout the plane.

The other big advancement will be the rollout of Internet availability during flights. According to Airline Business magazine, 59% of airlines will have in-flight Internet services available by the end of 2008.