By Daniel Carr
Cell phone rage could soon be coming to a flight near you: Three Chinese airlines have signed deals to allow in flight cell phone usage. Air China, China South and China East are beginning preparations to allow passengers to use their cells mid flight in order to offer services offered by competing airlines throughout Europe, Africa and America. The set price per minute: 15 yuan!
Yes, listening to fellow passengers nattering down the phone as you recline at 30,000 feet could soon accompany the bad food and DVT. There has always been a general consensus among experts that the use of cellular telephones on board planes would ‘fly’ the way to disaster since the radio waves emitted by cell phones can interfere with the pilots two-way radio system, as well as affect the on board navigation systems.
Expert opinions, however, have been put in to disrepute after several airlines throughout the world have begun to trial, and indeed implement on board telephony capability. Lufthansa pushed the boundaries by allowing text messaging and emailing via an internet connection. Emirates then went one step further and caused controversy in March 2008 when they offered a full in-flight cell phone service, charging passengers the equivalent of 20 Yuan a minute for voice calls.
For a cell phone to be used for voice calls on board a plane, a ‘picocell’ – a tiny mobile phone mast – has to be installed. More airlines; including Ryanair and British Airways, have begun to follow in the path of Emirates and install these tiny antenna.
Although Air China, China South and China East may not have the capability to offer this service to Expo visitors as they fly off to faraway lands, it may not be in the too distant future that we can take off from Pudong, whilst reminding our ayi to water the plants!