On 2 April Air France started the voice element of the ongoing trials during commercial flights across Europe of the OnAir solution on an Airbus A318.
The system can accommodate up to six simultaneous calls and also unlimited SMS texts and emails.
The introduction of the voice services follows successful in-flight trials since December 2007 enabling passengers to send and receive SMS texts and emails.
Passengers will use their own mobile phones and GPRS-enabled devices to make and receive calls the same as on the ground.
Passengers need to have a mobile roaming agreement – the same as for calls made abroad. And the cost for the service is charged by their mobile network operator in the normal way.
Air France and OnAir say this is the first service to offer the full range of mobile communication services over SwiftBroadband – including the ability to download email attachments.
Air France vice-president of marketing Patrick Roux, said: “We are taking every opportunity to offer our customers the latest cabin innovations, while continuing to make travel comfort and their well-being our main priority.
“During the first three months of the trial, passenger feedback has been positive regarding the features, quality of transmission and user-friendliness of the service.”
OnAir chief executive Benoit Debains said: “Following the success of the trial so far, we are now adding the voice function. Air France is the world's first carrier to offer the full capability of the in-flight mobile phone service, and is able to do so because of OnAir's SwiftBroadband solution.”
Inmarsat's Head of Marketing Aeronautical Business Lars Ringertz said: “This is a day of firsts for OnAir: it's the first time a full voice and data solution is available on short haul aircraft, it's the first time using SwiftBroadband and Air France is the first European carrier providing in flight connectivity.”
In addition, OnAir announced at the Aircraft Interiors Show in Hamburg that Kuwait and Dubai-based Jazeera Airways plan to retro-fit OnAir's solution on its six Airbus A320 this year, to enable passengers to make mobile calls and send and receive texts and emails on aircraft flying on routes in the Middle East.
Oman Air also announced that they will fit OnAir's service to seven new Airbus A330 aircraft so that mobile phone, text and email services are available from 2009. To provide these services on a commercial basis Oman and Jazeera first require licenses from the relevant regional and international aviation authorities.