First in-flight app from SITA Lab and OnAir

SITA Lab and OnAir have developed what is claimed to be the world’s first app dedicated to in-flight mobile usage. Demonstrated at the SITA Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels this week, the app enables passengers on British Airways Club World London City flights to and from New York to track their flight’s progress and destination weather, read live sports news, book a chauffeur and contact a dedicated help desk by email.

SITA Lab innovation manager Stephane Cheikh explains that the app is an in-flight portal developed specifically for passengers on the all business class service: "As soon as they’re connected to the network they receive a welcome SMS, and on the welcome SMS there’s a link, and clicking on the link brings you to the portal."

The portal opens with the flight identity, estimated arrival time and time to destination and a link to Track Flight, a map display showing present position and altitude. Below that is a menu of options, top of which is Sports News — "one of the first things people are looking for once they are connected," says Cheikh. This week’s choices included live results from the World Cup football and Wimbledon tennis tournaments.

Then there is an option to book a chauffeur to meet the flight at either LCY or JFK. A concierge service link gives email access to the City Business Team, "so you have one on one response from a concierge based in either London or New York," says Cheikh. And a weather and traffic option presents a three-day weather forecast summary plus traffic alerts.

The Club World London City flights are operated by 32-seat Airbus A318s. The OnAir service is available once the aircraft has reached a height of 10,000 feet — normally about 10 minutes after takeoff — providing email, text and multi-media messaging and internet access.

A mobile internet account is required and users are billed through their network provider. Currently UK network operators Vodaphone, O2, Orange and T-Mobile, along with T-Mobile USA, have agreements with OnAir enabling customers to use the service.

The airline does not allow voice calls, partly out of consideration for other passengers but also, it says, to maximise the on-board bandwidth for all users.

BA’s Club World London City flights to New York depart London City at 12:50 Monday-Friday and 16:00 Sunday-Friday. Return flights leave JFK at 18:50 Sunday-Friday and 21:50 Sunday-Thursday.

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