Emirates to allow in-flight cellphone calls via OnAir

Dubai-based Emirates said it will permit passengers to use their mobile phones for voice calls or data service while aboard A380 aircraft. The service--which is based on a system from OnAir, a joint venture of SITA and Airbus--enables passengers to use their own mobile phones to make and receive phone calls and text messages via EDGE/GPRS connections through their mobile service provider. The service is in addition to the OnAir Wi-Fi service that has been available since 2011 on Emirates A380 aircraft. The service will not be available in the skies around the United States, however, as Federal Aviation Administration rules require the service to shut down within 250 miles of the U.S.

Emirates has a history of enabling passengers to avail themselves of in-flight communications. For example, in 1993 Emirates became the first airline to equip its entire Airbus fleet with satellite phones, and the next year it equipped its Airbus fleet with in-flight fax machines. For more on Emirates' announcement, see this release.