RyanAir grounds in-flight mobile phone deal

The low-cost airline, RyanAir, has pulled the plug on its in-flight mobile phone service that had been operated on 50 of its aircraft, about a quarter of its fleet. The details of why the service, which was being provided by OnAir, has been closed have not been released, although RyanAir is noted for its efforts to extract every last cent from suppliers and passengers alike.

The deal was first announced in September 2006 with OnAir tasked to install mobile calling, texting and email via Inmarsat's satellite backhaul services into RyanAir's entire fleet of aircraft. The service, which was based around a picocell, charged a few euro per minute for calls, and inflated rates for email and texting. These rates were said to be comparable with international roaming costs when OnAir first proposed them four years ago, but EU regulators have forced lower intra-EU roaming, which may have restricted OnAir's ability to provide RyanAir with a meaningfull profit.

OnAir, which is jointly owned by SITA and Airbus, claimed to provide in-flight services with "six airlines and has a portfolio of 23 signed agreements with national carriers worldwide." However, only a handful of aircraft are said to be operating with production OnAir equipment on regular routes. When Boeing's high-profile in-flight Connexion service failed, it had many dozens of planes in the air.

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