by Joseph Weisenthal

In-Flight Calling Preparing For Takeoff Aboard Ryanair

from the overhead-compartments-must-be-shut dept

The maverick Irish airline Ryanair has a long history of pushing the envelope with its business practices, whether it's offering free tickets supported by advertising and gambling or banning employees from charging their phones at work so as to save money on electricity. Now it's moving forward on plans to allow in-flight cell phone use, and of course it smells profit opportunities. The company hopes that by next June it will be able to offer the service using a technology that will essentially turn each plane into a floating cell tower and turn Ryanair into its own mobile operator. Of course, the company plans to charge substantial roaming fees, to the tune of a few dollars per minute. Still, it's unclear what regulatory hurdles to offering the service remain, and it's possible the EU will want to regulate these fees, as it's prone to do when it deems them to be too high. But while some may grouse about Ryanair's aggressive use of extra fees, the smart traveller's trip is subsidized by those who can't resist temptations like on-board calling.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 9:28am

    That's weird

    I thought that cell phones worked fine on airplanes already (September 11th?). They were just banned since then for some reason, why is a new technology needed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Riddelin, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 9:50am

    I was just on a Southwest flight, and mine didn't have reception. I figured we were too high up, but once you start to get lower it's time to shut off all electronic devices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 9:55am

    A quick buck.

    This new tech seems to be nothing more than the opportunity to cash in on business types. Like the guy/girl in comment #1 I thought cell phones already worked fine but were just banned because the cell phone signal could interfere with the planes own systems or something like that. So I assume signal interference is not the case. Or are they trying to say that their signals are okay but all others will cause interference? Must be something else.

    BTW this is not an attempt at sarcasm. I really thought that was the reason for no cell phone use on planes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 9:59am

    Re: That's weird

    Above a certin hight, cell phones will have a hard time connectiong to the cell towers, that's why they need the plain to act as a cellphone tower.
    (9/11 the planes were flying low enough for gound cell phone netoworks to connect)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Yooperbacker, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:06am

    no cell phones

    I don't care what it might cost for people to use cell phones on flights. I would go nuts if I had to sit next to someone and hear them talk, talk, talk. A price for a ticket to fly cost enough as is, let alone having to put up with the person on a cell phone during the whole flight!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Astral, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:22am

    Re: no cell phones

    I have to agree.

    It's bad enough everywhere I go I have to hear someone screaming into their phone. I'm sorry but, what possible reason could you have for calling from the plane except in an emergency. I know damn well that most of the phone calls are "We are taking off now" or "I'm going to be landing in 30mins" or better still "The food on the plane sux". None of these calls are necessary. Christ if you can make the flight without smoking a cig why the hell can't people make it without the damn phone glued to their ear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Jezsik, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:27am

    Yeah, they work all right

    In fact, pilots often make calls from the cockpit. The problem is that no one is willing to take the chance that cell phone calls have no effect on the plane's operation. Sheesh, they don't even want us to use our MP3 players!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    James, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: That's weird

    BS they where flying to high to make the calls. That is why all these conspiracy theorist are loving it so much. They have the records of the actual flight and they where too high to make the calls when the "supposedly" did. I am not saying I believe everything they say, but they use some good logic unlike the official propaganda line that is used by our government which makes NO sense. Yah sure, terrorist with box cutters.... HA!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    MissingFrame, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:33am

    They are fine, but untested.

    Until they are proven without a doubt not to cause problems, who's on the hook when an airplane crashes because of it? Then there's the political side of things that are already in your comments: Like complaining about phones but I guess farting is still legal, so I guess eating a lot of beans before the flight is preferred to calling my ride 15 minutes before we land to pick me up? Or can you legislate manners?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: That's weird

    so they say...

    you actually get a boost on your cell phone if you wear a foil hat....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Dan Moutal, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:42am

    Old news

    I remember years ago when most airlines had phones bilt into every seat. no one used them. why? because just like this plan they were WAY to expensive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Chris, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:49am


    I still fail to see how cell phones, gameboys, or anything else short of an unsheilded magnatron can intefeer with a planes operating systems. Wires are shielded, and if a 500mw pulse is going to short circuit a guidence system it's time to reform your technologies. It's fine to use them while sitting on the ground, and fine while the planes flying through the air, but during takeoff and landing it's prohibited. While I've no education on the matter one could logically assume this is for safety precautions as most plane accidents that occur are either during takeoffs or landings. So in the event that there were an emeregency the flight staff has your utmost attention, instead of your mindless babble into a cell phone or the mind numbing effect of your PSP. With all the telecommunications surrounding an airport, and the like from any metroplois area, I fail to see how it would be an issue other than 30 people in centralized location creating a large enough EMP to render the plane inept.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    blueskydiver76, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 10:52am

    Re: That's weird

    The 9/11 call with the infamous "Lets Roll" quote was not made from a cell phone but from a seatback phone service provided by GTE Airfone. I was working for GTE Airfone at the time. heres a wiki link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let's_roll.

    Some phones may get a signal when the plane is landing or taking off but while its in flight the planes are travelling too fast and high for the cell phone to lock onto 1 tower long enough to make a call. If the plane is low enough however it may be possible to make a call...i have not tested this.

    GTE Airfone is now Verizon Airfone. They will be pulling their phones off the planes soon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Bryce, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 11:05am

    Cell Phone Use on Planes...

    Mythbusters, a popular show on the Discovery Channel, investigated the myth surrounding cell phone usage on airplanes. They found that it is unlikely that a cell phone could alter the frequency of a plane's directional compass but that it was nevertheless possible. It is also illegal in the United States to use a cell phone in the air; it is a federal law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Fabian, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 11:12am

    Re: no cell phones

    I agree! People talk on their cell phones while they drive (one almost hit me while she was doing 60 m.p.h. - she didn't even hang up!), when they are walking, on the potty, eating, anywhere! You'd think some of them would have enough self-respect to value their privacy but NOOOO! An airline ticket is expensive enough. Ryanair might get five persons who want to use their cellphones on a flight but that will mean 50 person who will use another carrier simply to avoid listening to that drivel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 11:32am

    "...that will mean 50 person who will use another carrier simply to avoid listening to that drivel...."

    No they won't, RyanAir only costs like $20 for a ticket. It's like a cattle car already, a bit of chatter won't hurt them at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Scott, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 11:42am

    Re: Cell Phone Use on Planes...

    Actually they used a new, top of the line all digital private jet.

    Sorry that doesn't cut it for me, I want the 10 year old rebuilt, retrofitted, POS that Delta uses to be tested as that is what most people fly on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    i hate your cell phone, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 11:59am

    also the plane is usually flying too fast to keep you connected to the towers...

    anyway if you talk on your phone next to me i will talk louder to myself until you go insane. if you keep talking i will just vomit on you and pretend it was air sickness...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Kacela, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 12:30pm

    Cellphone / Airphone study above 10,000 feet

    Here is a link to a study on the viability of phone usage at different altitudes, and the problems one would encounter: Plane Phone Use

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Corrupt Data, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 12:58pm

    Cellphones at High Altitudes

    It's rather unlikely that you can lock on to a tower for long enough to make a call. 30,000 feet is at about the maximum range for cellphones. You could probably leave a garbled 30 second voice message or send a text message before losing signal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    ZeTron, Jul 28th, 2006 @ 1:49pm

    Analog Cell phones

    When it became illegal to use a cell phone in a plane was when Analog phones were still in service. the old bag phones cranked out over 3 watts of power! a digital cell phone (all cell phones are digital now) uses max .6 watts... also planes in the past did not sheild their equipment as well..... this law is out of date, yet many people still fear it because most people have such little knowledge of cell phones and how the work; a plan crashing from interference seems to make sense. a fair amount of people still think cell phones work with a satellite in space.. the fear is easily propagated word of mouth. just like the world is flat or tomatoes are poisonous.

    but with that said; cell phones are not designed to work from a plane. cell towers send and receive at a nearly horizontal angle. they do not beam into the clouds, for obivous reasons. phones will still pick up a signal, just not as well as they do on the ground... there are many other reasons why cell phones are not designed to work from planes..... using the plane as a cell tower is interesting but at over a dollar a minute i might as well just use the Verizon Airphone. or better yet - take a nap and call when i land

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Flamsmark (profile), Jul 28th, 2006 @ 5:57pm

    Re: no cell phones

    people - in general - are allowed to use cellphone; whether it's in the park, in a restaurant, or on the bus. there have been alledged technical reasons why cellphone use should be prohibited on planes. if these reasons are valid, they should be respected; otherwise, they should not.

    however, the interactions of other travelers should not be a factor. one does not get to determine when other people may or may not use a cellphone for one's own convenience. there is no reason why it should be any different on a plane.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Flamsmark (profile), Jul 28th, 2006 @ 6:07pm

    Re: They are fine, but untested.

    the fcc and similar bodies outside the us require certain levels of 'interference hardness' to be exhibited by machinery, including aircraft; and for limits to be placed on the transmissions that can be emitted by devices that use electromagnetic radiation as a communications medium. the function of these pairs of limits, in tandem, is to ensure that no damaging interference can occur between devices. aircraft normally have to meet higher specifications than many other sorts of machinery because the risk of catastrauphic failure associated with them [though this varias from country to country].

    in this way, cellphones will not interfere with aircraft systems, or hospital systems, or even cause sparks that blow up gas stations. the allegations that such things occur are false. there is no such reason to avoid using cellphones in these situations [though there may be others, for instance, with regards to the phones' interactions with towers on the ground when they are moving so fast past them].

    in summary, there is no good reason to avoid cellphone use on planes. the fcc is the one on the hook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    Flamsmark (profile), Jul 28th, 2006 @ 6:11pm

    Re: Interference

    you are more than correct. aircraft systems are well-hardened against electrical interference, as mandated by applicable law. in many countries, airplanes are required to function [to a certain level] even after highly agressive EMPs.

    the assumptions about takeoff and landing are more wishy-washy, however. would they also not want you to be reading, writing or somehow [gasp!] entertaining yourself without the use of electronic gadgetry?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Jul 30th, 2006 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re: They are fine, but untested.

    It's not so much the mechanisms but the sensitive receivers
    for navigation that are the concern. It takes only a small
    error in navigation to produce a disaster.

    They don't have to prove the phones are a problem.
    This isn't a legal question, they're not innocent until
    proven guilty. It's just the opposite. They're banned
    until someone pays for the expensive testing required
    to prove they're not creating a hazard. Or the FAA
    makes a technical decision after evaluating the expected
    level of risk. Generally anything that intentionally
    transmits a signal is going to be considered risky.

    Before you tell me I'm full of it I should say I designed
    aircraft electronics used by most of the major airlines
    in the 747-400, 767 and A-300.

    One case of a cell phone causing a problem that was
    unexpected is a smoke detector in a bathroom was set
    off by a person trying to make a call. I think this was
    the old analog phone and don't know the transmitter

    There is also the problem of cell management when the
    plane is low enough to contact a cell it will contact many
    cells over a wide area. I don't know how much of a problem
    this might be. The single incident of 9/11 is not enough
    data to know if it would be a problem. Having a cell receiver
    in the plane makes a lot of sense though.

    Personally Id' rather not see cell phones in the planes.
    use the in-flight entertainment system which should have
    a phone built into it. Or better yet watch a movie or listen
    to some music so you're not annoying the crap out of the
    other passengers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    CrewUK, Jul 31st, 2006 @ 12:57pm

    The reason

    The reason you can't use your phone on an aircraft is that you are too high for the radio waves to reach you as their ranges aren't huge which is why you have loads of phone masts. The signal is sent in all directions from the mast in a wave and gets weaker the further you get from it. At 40,000 ft (7.5 miles) in the sky, travelling at 500 mph, you won't be able to stay on a stable connection as you are travelling too fast and too far away. This will also drain your battery as it is constantly trying to get hold of a signal.

    The reason you can't use it during takeoff and landings is that these are known as "Critical Phases of Flight" and so at these times, all electronics and radio equipment must be turned off as you want to reduce the risk of ANY possible failure or interference as far as humanly possible so it's better to be safe than sorry

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    marshus, Sep 3rd, 2006 @ 10:35pm

    new feature or marketing hype since 9/11?

    This is new feature? I think its just a marketing hype about something that is real since 9/11 - go to cinemas and see United 93.

    How can you promote it without solidarity to those who died there???

    Go promote your new Real ID Act with RFID instead!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Alan C, Jun 17th, 2010 @ 4:33am

    Ryanair's fart detector

    I understand that Ryanair will soon start charging for farting on their planes, it seems they have developed a paper sheet that changes colour when fart gas passes over it, passengers will be issued with a sheet that they have to sit on, then the crew will inspect it and charge them accordingly before they are allowed to leave the plane. I found the full story here http://listentothepeople.co.uk/soapbox/560-ryanair-to-charge-for-farting.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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