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Was Airfone A Success?  
User currently offlineSoxfan From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 870 posts, RR: 0
Posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 4007 times:

I remember as recently as several years ago flying in planes with had Airfones, the handheld telephone corded to the back of the seat in front of you. Does anyone know if many people used it, and how much revenue (if any) it brought into the airline?

Some international planes still have satellite phones in the armrest as part of the PTV remote; are those profitable as well? I can't imagine that they are used very often, given the astronomical price charged for connecting and per minute.


Pilot: "Request push, which way should we face?" JFK Ground: "You better face the front, sir, or you'll scare the pax!"
15 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineVasu From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2005, 3987 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 3968 times:

Then of course there's the inflight mobile coverage a la Ryanair...

It'll be interesting to see what people have to say on this matter... I've personally never seen one person use Airfone, PTV phone or Ryanair coverage!


User currently offlinePagophilus From Australia, joined Oct 2006, 114 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 3902 times:

There's only so much people are prepared to pay for a phone call. US$10 per minute is way beyond that limit. So I doubt it got used very much at all. I have never seen anyone use any phone in flight. I've thought of calling a friend and saying "Guess where I am", but the price was too high for that. Yes, I can spare $10, but it really is a waste. You'd only use it in emergencies, but you wouldn't even know about an emergency while you're on the plane, as nobody on the ground can contact you.

User currently offlineLightsaber From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 13552 posts, RR: 100
Reply 3, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 3871 times:
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Quoting Soxfan (Thread starter):
Some international planes still have satellite phones in the armrest as part of the PTV remote; are those profitable as well? I can't imagine that they are used very often, given the astronomical price charged for connecting and per minute.

I've spent hours talking to someone on a plane utilizing the airphone. While use was rare, when it was warrented, it was worth every penny.

But I 2nd the question. Was Airphone profitable? For the airliens? After fuel costs for carrying the associated equipment?

Honestly, I think half the reason they were there is to keep people buying tickets. With an airphone there... I know of people who booked trips knowing if something 'went wrong' they could pick up the airphone. Then again, these same people gave me odd looks to my question "how will you know to call?"  Wink Only one person responded intellegently (his old style pager would pick up signal on aircraft). Note: I'm discussing 'back in the days' when a cell phone was that big brick permanently mounted in a fancy car.

Lightsaber



Societies that achieve a critical mass of ideas achieve self sustaining growth; others stagnate.
User currently offlineWNCrew From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 1485 posts, RR: 10
Reply 4, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 3800 times:

I used it once on a TATL flight to CDG. I had a tight connection in PHL from my SEA flight and I had a text from a friend that was very urgent so with no time to respond I had to call back in the air. It was a quick 4 min phone-call ... $56 or so was what I paid for the call but it was an emergency situation so the call was worth it.


ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
User currently offlineEvan767 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 2957 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 3800 times:



Quoting Lightsaber (Reply 3):

I've spent hours talking to someone on a plane utilizing the airphone. While use was rare, when it was warrented, it was worth every penny.

Can you expand on this? Have you really racked up a thousand dollar bill by using the airfone for hours? Business?



The proper term is "on final" not "on finals" bud...
User currently offlineLightsaber From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 13552 posts, RR: 100
Reply 6, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 3800 times:
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Quoting Evan767 (Reply 5):
Can you expand on this? Have you really racked up a thousand dollar bill by using the airfone for hours? Business?

Two different bosses called me from airphones.
The first call was a conference call (multiple people on the ground listening in) to give direction for the competition on about 4 different contracts. I happened to be the one whom the boss called to set up the meeting. (One call, then another call to the conference room.) yes... over an hour. I never saw the bill as I was on the ground writting down my 'to do' list as fast as tasks were assigned. Why did it last so long? The customer rep (who was ultimately paying for the call) had quite the laundry list of questions (he walked into our meeting)... but hey, after the 3rd person mentions "you know he's calling from the plane," you let the call continue and answer the customer's questions.

Same with the 2nd call. The boss was away when he realized a major presentation... had no presenter! So it was a little less than an hour call so that I knew where to find what and who was the target audience.  Smile

In both cases, the cost of the call was trivial versus the business cost if the call had not been made. In neither case did I initiate nor expect the call (well, in the 2nd case it was my e-mail that started a chain of events...). Yes, a business picked up the tab, not the individual. But in both cases, company policy forced the caller to ride back in Y to save on travel budget while allowing for the call.  boggled 

Let me be clear, I never called from an airplane to the ground on an airphone.  no  I have received calls from airphones. Rare... hence why they are memorable. It wasn't one call for hours... but hours of air time in the summation of receiving multiple calls from an airphone over the years.

But even then, I doubt, due to the equipment weight, airphones were ever profitable for the airlines.

Lightsaber



Societies that achieve a critical mass of ideas achieve self sustaining growth; others stagnate.
User currently offlineKELPkid From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 6428 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 3799 times:

IIRC, there was no charge for using the Airfone to dial Skymall's 1-800 number while airborne...I wonder how many people took advantage of that  Wink


Celebrating the birth of KELPkidJR on August 5, 2009 :-)
User currently offlineMexicana767 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 59 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 3799 times:

I remember when i flew UA to LAX back in 2002, they still had the seats in the back of the plane. But before I went on the flight, i found out that Verizon bought Airfone. Thats when I found out that Verizon offered a service that would foward your cell phone calls (from a Verizon number of course) to the inseat phone! or that you can make calls from the phone for a reduce rate of about .64 cents a minute. I took advantage of that service and used my mom's cell phone to forward all the calls to the inseat phone and it worked! when ever a call was comming in it would say "incoming Call for Seat 7A..." It was awesome! Too bad that they took them out though.....


"Never, Never, Never Quit" -Winston Churchill
User currently offlineAeropix From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 28 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 3796 times:

I was flying throughout the history of this product, from the "cordless" ones, that you released from the bulkhead by inserting a creditcard, to the seatback phones in each row, to the ones in the seats.

When Southwest adopted the Airfone, I was working there as groundstaff and we got a special deal for 30 cents/minute with no setup fee.

However, even before that deal, I used it several times a year to announce my imminent arrival and arrange a pickup time and place, as I did not buy a cellphone until after the 2000's.

I found the service to be quite worthwhile, and my family and friends appreciated that I would call before landing, since neither they nor I knew before takeoff which flight I would be on. Since I was getting the flights for free or <$50 as airline staff, I felt that the cost of a $10 phone call was just part of the cost of the flight, and still felt it was very reasonable since it allowed me to accomplish more.


User currently offlineSkymiler From United States of America, joined Aug 2007, 546 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 3796 times:

I was very heavily involved with Airfone for systems testing, both in a laboratory and test environment and production.

First, let me say that the engineers I worked with were truly excellent, as was the support staff. I got to meet some of the support staff who I had spoken with to handle issues -- which had actually taken place several years before, at the HQ near Chicago.

For call-out voice with 800 numbers, it was very effective. The seat-to-seat did not seem to have much value to me. The incoming (which was effectively a page that lit up a tiny light) never seemed to work that well -- it was a notification, not an inbound call. You then had to make a call to pick up the message.

The quality was quite good, except that there were several "holes" in coverage, even over the US. A notable one was between DFW and OKC, heading north. Somewhere near the State line, coverage simply evaporated for several minutes while in flight.

The domestic service was terrestrial based, but they also had satellite for overseas flight. It was quite an interesting system, with the satellite antennae linked to the aircraft Inertial Nav system. Once, when doing ground testing on an Air Canada 767 at YYZ, we had to wait for the INS to spin up and align (which could take up to 20 or so minutes!!) -- and then suddenly had to move to another gate, and start again! Made for a VERY long afternoon.

The data component was not as good. Effectively it create a dial-up link from a laptop, and one could sometimes get 4,800 baud. Once connected, it was reasonably reliable, and with good compression was usable for basic work (when over land).

The data over satellite was a total disaster, though. I made a round trip from YYC to LHR and back the next day on an A/C A340. Test gear piled everywhere ( which got VERY strange looks from fellow passengers, but we did stow when required). Never could get a data circuit to operate on that link.

Overall, I used the system as needed for many years, and in time of need it did what I needed it to!

Many good memories of the Verizon Airfone staff.



I love to fly, and it shows!
User currently offlineSuseJ772 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 826 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 3796 times:

I called once from a UA first class flight from ORD-DEN. I think I was 12 years old and "we" (the family minus Dad) called Dad at the office just to be like "guess where we are / too bad you couldn't join us on vacation." He got a good chuckle. We were maybe on for 3-4 minutes tops.


Currently at PIE, requesting FWA >> >>
User currently offlineFlighty From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 8776 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 3796 times:

It's funny that people are obsessing over how "in the future" people MIGHT be able to use a telephone while flying.

The first time I used a phone on an airliner was probably in the early 90s. It was using Airfone or some similar product. Nearly twenty years ago. Maybe newspapers need to get a clue about that.


User currently offlinePliersinsight From United States of America, joined May 2008, 499 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 3796 times:



Quoting KELPkid (Reply 7):
IIRC, there was no charge for using the Airfone to dial Skymall's 1-800 number while airborne...I wonder how many people took advantage of that

Judging from the overpriced nature of most things in that Skymall mag, just calling a friend would be the least expensive option.


User currently offlineUN_B732 From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 4289 posts, RR: 4
Reply 14, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 3796 times:

If I remember right, Verizon Wireless had a plan for Airfone use on their contracts near the end that wasn't bad - I think it was like $20 a month or so? Never used it myself.

-A



What now?
User currently offlineCOEWR2587 From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 607 posts, RR: 2
Reply 15, posted (5 years 2 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 3796 times:



Quoting Soxfan (Thread starter):
Some international planes still have satellite phones in the armrest as part of the PTV remote

Those are also used now with IFE updating to call other passengers at their seats and for texting. I was on QF A830 was in Y and was able to call my dad in J upstairs at his seat.



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