Mile High Mobiles

The Dubai-based Emirates will become the first to allow mobile calls to made in-flight. As early as January next year, the airline will have the technology to allow calls to made safely.

Calls will be charged at rates "comparable to international tariffs", and Aeromobile, the company providing the necessary technology believes airbourne mobile calls could generate revenues as much as £1.5bn by 2010.

Emirates will encourage talkative passengers to turn their phones to silent to avoid complaints from their fellow travellers. As a failsafe, cabin crew will have the ability to control the system at any time, plus select operating modes appropriate to particular flights. For example, crew may disable voice service and select text only operation mode for overnight flights. 

AeroMobile president David Poltorak said: "We believe that the ability to communicate efficiently, easily and safely when on board flights will become an essential feature of business and leisure travel."

“We are currently talking to a number of other airlines about extending the service to their fleets.”

Emirates and AeroMobile plan to add GPRS data and internet capability to the system the Inmarsat satellite communications systems are upgraded later in 2007. This will allow the use of BlackBerrys, Palm Treos and mobile data-enabled PDAs and laptop PCs for email and Internet access from the aircraft.