Malaysia Airlines to allow cell phones on flights

/ Source: The Associated Press

Malaysia Airlines on Tuesday unveiled a new service allowing passengers to make and receive calls on their mobile phones while in air on some routes.

Passengers can also send and receive text messages, and use their Blackberry-type devices to send and receive e-mails, Malaysia Airlines, or MAS, said in a statement.

It said the airline teamed up with AeroMobile, a British company, to become the first Asian carrier to offer in-flight mobile phone and data services via satellite with passengers using their own equipment.

Customers can now safely use their mobile phone or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) during the flight without affecting the aircraft systems and ground telecommunication networks, the statement said.

The service is currently available on a single Boeing 777-200 aircraft, which flies on different days to selected European, Australian and Asian destinations including China and Japan, said the statement.

The system will be installed on all wide-bodied aircraft in the MAS fleet by next year if it proves to be successful, said MAS chief executive Idris Jala.

"This is one of the in-flight service comforts that we are introducing on a trial basis for our customers," he said. "With this facility, we definitely have a competitive edge and firmly believe that both our business and leisure passengers will very much welcome this new service," he added.

Users will be billed on their regular phone bills by their own service providers as with any other international roaming call.

Passengers will be encouraged to switch their phones to silent or vibrate mode when using them in the aircraft, said the statement.