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apr 07 2008

Airlines: The EU gives OK for in-flight cell phone use

Passengers on European planes will be yapping on their cell phones during flights, thanks to a new ruling by officials in Brussels. (So much for cell phone use being disruptive of an airplane's electronics!)

Air France has been testing the service since mid-December, but the airline has not yet decided whether it will allow passengers to place voice calls along with sending text-messages. Air France's service allows you to download email attachments and surf the Web from your device's browser. So far, the service is only available on its Airbus A318 operating on routes in Europe. Fees have not been announced.

It's not clear if other airlines will follow suit. Just because it's allowed doesn't mean that every airline will offer the service. Airlines have permission to ask passengers to switch their phones and devices to "silent mode" during night flights.

The fine print:

You have to have a phone or device that operates on the standard cellular network in Europe, GSM, to take part in the service. Theoretically, users of the AT&T; and T-Mobile services in the U.S. should be able to take advantage of this service on European planes because they also run on GSM.

A device will force all cell phones (and Blackberries, Treos, and iPhones) to use a transmitter on the plane, which will direct the calls via the satellite to ground transmitters.

On our previous blog post, "Do you really want to be connected in-flight?", dozens of readers commented about cell phone use during flights. Here are a few of your comments:

Can you imagine how (extra) loud people will be talking on cell phones on airplanes (my wife is loud enough when we are in the car)! :-)—Mark Silver

I don't care about being connected to the web but I sure don't want everyone being able to use their cell phones.—Walter Grebe.

Absolutely a positive! Airline flying is a total bore and a waste of a perfectly good day. Even with the tight seats in coach that nearly exclude using your laptop (especially if the person in front of you leans the seat back - YIKES!), most of us still have our i-Phones, Crackberries, etc. and could make much better use of our time onboard the flying projectile if we could connect in-flight.—Carol White

Feel free to sound off with your own opinion below.

MORE The BBC's coverage.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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