Emirates said that the "first authorized mobile phone call made from a commercial flight" was made last week aboard one of its A340-300s, marking the launch of a $27 million programme that will equip its fleet with the AeroMobile system. The system will allow passengers to use their own cell phones in flight.
The call itself was made on a flight from Dubai to Casablanca at an altitude of 30,000 ft.
In a statement Emirates said that over the previous 18 months it has worked "closely with regulators and telecommunications providers across the globe, fully completing rigorous testing and certification processes" to become the first airline to allow passengers to use mobile phones.
Emirates said that it would "very shortly" convert a B777-300 to the AeroMobile system and follow it up gradually with other aircraft in its fleet.
Chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said, "All seats across our fleet are already equipped with in-seat phones, as well as e-mail and text messaging capabilities via the in-seat entertainment system. . .we are delighted to now offer them the choice of using their own mobile phones."
According to Emirates, the service will be activated only after aircraft achieve cruising altitude. It also said that cabin crew would have "full control over the system, including the ability to prevent voice calls at certain times such as during night flights." The system would also allow only five or six calls to be in operation at one time.
The AeroMobile service will allow passengers to send and receive text messages as well.
All phone and text charges will be "in line with premium international roaming rates," the carrier said. "Users will be billed on their regular phone bills by their own service providers as with any other roaming call."