Posted on: 01 February 2011 by Ross McSweeny
Brazilian carrier, TAM Airlines, has expanded its contract with OnAir to equip a range of 26 single-aisle aircraft with the provider’s connectivity system.
Following a successful pilot project, the aircraft are expected to start flying with the service onboard in the second half of 2011 to all operated domestic routes and will fly to most of the 45 destinations covered by TAM in Brazil. The carrier will set up a dedicated production line to install the system on the Airbus A319, A320, and A321 aircraft at its Technological Center in São Carlos, State of São Paulo.
“The high use of on-board connectivity by our passengers has encouraged us to invest further. We noted our clients want and need to be connected while flying,” said Manoela Amaro, TAM Airlines’ Marketing Officer. “To that end, we are increasing the number of aircrafts with the OnAir system to offer our customers a more complete flying experience.”
The service, based on Inmarsat SwiftBroadband, allows passengers to connect to a cellular network from their personal GSM handsets. TAM claims to be the first airline in the Americas to offer on-board mobile phone services.
“Inflight connectivity has reached a tipping point,” commented Ian Dawkins, Chief Executive Officer of OnAir. “It’s now a must-have for airlines and no longer just a nice-to-have.”
The service allows as many as eight TAM passengers to make and receive calls simultaneously on a flight, with no limits on data and text messaging. Mobile phones work in exactly the same way as in international roaming and can be activated as soon as the aircraft reaches an altitude of 4,000 metres (13,000 feet).
Dawkins added, “The more passengers become aware that they can stay connected while in the air, the greater our understanding of the services they demand and the faster airlines are learning that connectivity is now an integral part of the onboard experience.”
The system provides complete aircraft safety by preventing any interference between mobile phone signals, mobile infrastructures on the ground and the aircraft’s commands. If necessary, the OnAir system can be turned off by the aircraft’s crew at any time. During takeoffs and landings passengers will be instructed to switch off their electronic devices.
TAM Airlines received technical approval from the Brazilian National Agency of Civil Aviation (ANAC) and OnAir has received the authorisation to operate the service by the Brazilian National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel). The system has also been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and its use was recently approved by the European Union.