Ina Fried

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For Better or Worse, Emirates Passengers Can Now Yammer on Their Cellphones in Flight

Dubai-based Emirates said Monday that it will start letting passengers on its A380 aircraft talk using their cellphones while in flight.

The service works with standard phones in conjunction with OnAir, the company that provides Wi-Fi service for Emirates’ aircraft.

The only major limitation is that, per Federal Aviation Administration rules, the phones can’t be used over the U.S., so the service shuts down within 250 miles of the States.

Emirates has been tech-heavy for awhile now, equipping its Airbus fleet with phones and fax machines back in the 1990s, and offering in-seat email and text messaging to all passengers since 2006.

The first call using the new system was made on Oct. 2 and was placed to China, Emirates said.

Emirates is naturally touting the convenience and technological breakthrough of the service, though surveys have shown that passengers’ opinions appear mixed on having the ability to make cellphone calls in flight.

“Beginning in 1993 with first passenger satellite phone service to last year with our A380 Wi-Fi system, Emirates has always taken the approach that providing the latest in inflight service and connectivity is a key part of our passengers’ journey,” airline VP Patrick Brannelly said in a statement. “Emirates continues to invest in the most innovative technology possible and promises to keep pushing the boundaries of the inflight innovation for the benefit of our passengers.”

Whether customers see the service as a benefit probably depends on whether they are one of the executives yammering on a cellphone, or one of the people sitting next to said executive.

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