The European Union on Monday opened the way for air travelers to use cellphones to talk, text or send emails on planes in European airspace later this year.
Viviane Reding, the EU's telecommunications commissioner, warned phone operators not to set rates for the service too high and urged airlines to protect passengers from excessive phone use. "In-flight mobile phone services can be a very interesting new service, especially for those business travelers who need to be ready to communicate wherever they are," Ms. Reding said. "However, if consumers receive shock phone bills, the service will not take off."
Several airlines, including Air France-KLM, have already launched a trial of in-flight mobile-phone services on some European routes. British Midland Airways, Portugal's TAP and low-cost airline Ryanair are also planning to offer services later this year. Germany's Lufthansa said it does not want to introduce the service because many people don't want to be disturbed. Lufthansa may offer Internet access on its planes, which it offered from 2004 through 2006.
The EU regulation sets a common standard by which passengers can safely use their mobile phones during flights and airlines will only need to get one national license to launch their services. Those licenses will apply to all 27 nations in the EU.
Most services that are being rolled out this year are being provided by OnAir, a unit of planemaker Airbus. Their services allow in-air telephone calls above altitudes of 9,800 feet. EU spokesman Martin Selmayr said the phone services will not be available during take off or landing or during turbulence. He said the captain and crew of the plane can control when they want to switch off the onboard network. (info from The Wall Street Journal)