Airline to Make Cell Phone Calls Possible on Flights

Singapore airlines could allow calls as soon as January.

ByABC News
October 5, 2010, 1:26 PM

Oct. 5, 2010— -- On your next flight, you might hear the passenger sitting next to you say, "Can you hear me now?"

Singapore Airlines announced today that it will soon allow wireless connections -- for text messages, Blackberrys and perhaps cell phone calls -- on its medium- and long-haul flights.

The move comes as the airline announces a multi-million-dollar collaboration with in-flight connectivity provider OnAir to offer Wi-Fi Internet access and other services on its flights.

Details are still being worked out, but when the airline implements the system early next year, it could be the first carrier to allow passengers to make and receive voice calls on their personal cell phones. The airline is waiting to see how customers respond to the idea.

"Voice calls are a capability of the system and it's an option that we may open to customers in the future. At this point, a firm decision hasn't yet been made on that," said Singapore Airlines spokesman James Boyd. "There are a number of questions that will have to be explored as we continue to get feedback from our customers on how the system should be managed."

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No word yet on how much, if at all, the airline plans to charge passengers to make calls. One option the airline might explore: quiet zones or cell-phone only zones, much as Amtrak has "quiet cars" on its trains.

"It's going to be hell," said John DiScala, a blogger known as Johnny Jet. "People are going to be so tired from a long flight and want to sleep, and you're going to hear someone's annoying phone go off and then talking so loud, telling the person on the line everything."

DiScala, who travels around 150,000 miles and visits more than 20 countries each year, said he supports text messages and Internet access but not voice calls.

"It's just going to be chaos hearing all these different phones ring," he said. "There are so many people who don't have cell phone manners."