A growing number of companies are planning on offering mobile services that will target aviation industry in the Middle East, Gulf News reported.
OnAir, the company behind Air France's in-flight mobile services, plans on introducing those services on Royal Jordanian and Jazeera Airways by the end of this year, according to CEO Benoit Debains. Oman Air will also begin using OnAir's technology during the middle of 2009.
"We're in a market where this is going to be very successful," he said. "After six years, we'll be asking ourselves: how did we live without it?"
The company is also planning on launching its services on Ryan Air, British Midlands, and China's Shenzhen in the next four months.
OnAir's services, which are satellite based, make it possible to use both voice and data services for mobile phones during flights, although not all airlines will offer the same services.
The tariff for these services will be the same as making an international roaming call, Debains said. Even with the premium tariffs, he expects these services to take off for a number of reasons.
Because the phones being used are the customer's own, as opposed to the in-seat phone (installed in backs of seats) in the 1990s, people will be able to receive calls without having to use a credit card.
While voice and data services will be available, some customers could still face problems. Debains said the services available would be the same a customer would receive when roaming internationally; however, not all telecom firms make all their services, such as SMS, available when abroad.
Debains said the airlines were introducing the services for a variety of reasons. Budget airlines were interested in the revenue such services would generate, while more service-oriented airlines were responding to customer demand. These airlines didn't see the services as a revenue generator but as a financially self-sustaining service that would attract passengers.
Debains said he also did not think that allowing voice services would be a distraction for travellers, but he did say it was too early to be sure. He noted that Air France has introduced voice services three weeks ago, and complaints had been minimal.
Silverjet, a business-class only airline that serves New York, London and Dubai, is also rolling out services, but instead of inflight services, it is focusing on servicing customers still on the ground. The company has made all its web services, including the ability to purchase tickets, available for mobile phones.
George Henderson, the company's IT director, said the company recently launched the services and is just starting to see traffic come to the site.
"We would expect to see a great number of users," he said.
Henderson said he didn't expect the services, with only 6 weeks to roll out, to boost the number of bookings with the airline. The company expects the services to be used primarily be the business people who already use the airline.