Ryanair launches Europe’s first in-flight mobile service

20 Feb 2009

Budget airline Ryanair has become Europe’s first airliner to offer in-flight mobile services across its fleet, beginning with 20 planes before expanding it out to 170 aircraft.

The airliner has joined forces with technology firm OnAir to offer the service. The system allows passengers on the 20 initial Dublin-based aircraft to make and receive voice calls at international (non-EU) roaming rates of €2 to €3 per minute and over 50 cents per text message.

Email tariffs work out at €1 to €2 for users with BlackBerrys and other devices such as the iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile-powered smart phones.

Ryanair said these price tariffs are set by each mobile service provider and are subject to each customer’s individual price plan.

“Today’s launch by Ryanair and OnAir is the first step to offering in-flight mobile-phone services onboard our entire fleet of over 170 aircraft over the next 18 months,” said Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“This service will allow passengers to keep in touch with the office, family or friends. We expect customer demand for this service to grow rapidly, and hope that customers of all Irish mobile operators will soon be able to call or text home from 30,000 feet to tell loved ones of yet another on-time Ryanair flight,” O’Leary mused.

The service will initially be available to O2 and Vodafone customers, and to customers of over 50 other mobile phone operators across Europe.

At the launch, OnAir confirmed that it is working with other Irish mobile operators – 3 and Meteor – to ensure that their customers can also avail of the service.

“Mobile OnAir is the most advanced in-flight communications service in the world and this European fleet-wide rollout marks a real milestone in aviation,” said Benoit Debains, CEO of OnAir.

“We are proud to work with Ryanair, the world’s largest international scheduled airline, and to provide its 67 million passengers with access to this new technology, which will enable them to send and receive emails, text messages, download attachments and make and receive calls just as they would on the ground.”

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years