Ryanair has fitted 15 Dublin-based aircraft with technology to allow in-flight calls and text messages, with trials to start at the end of July.
By the end of the next fiscal year it wants to extend this to 50 aircraft, and across its fleet within a year and half.
”We”re fitting the first aircraft with these black boxes,” said Ryanair CEO Michael O”Leary. ”If you turn on your mobile currently, it hunts down to get a signal from the ground, which can interfere with the aircraft”s communications ” this [technology] shoots signals up to a satellite so it doesn”t interfere with electronics.”
The boxes can handle up to six simultaneous voice calls and unlimited texts at any give time, and passengers will be charged the usual roaming rate abroad ” Ryanair simply takes a cut of that charge.
”The charge you pay will be the international roaming charges ” we will then get a percentage of that paid to us because it”s our black box and our aircraft ” so you won”t pay any more than you would do normally travelling abroad,” said O”Leary.
”It will start off slow, it”ll take a period for some acceptance [to grow] and then it will go like a rocket. I don”t think there”ll be a lot of voice telephony ” although you”ll get a lot of incoming calls ” [but] I think where it will take off is people will send text messages saying ”just taken off”, ”on time”, ”just coming in to land” ” all that kind of stuff.”
As people become used to using their mobiles on board aircraft, he said Ryanair could feasibly make a lot of money from the service.
”If we”re carrying 60m passengers, and if we”re making on average ”0.10 per passenger on every flight, it multiplies into very significant income over time.”
” Ryanair will start 12 new UK routes and 28 European routes this winter.
Debut services will include London Stansted to Madrid, Birmingham to Frankfurt, and Manchester to Brussels.