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falstaff
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Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:48 am

Back in the late 80s and into 90s I remember seeing the airfone (I also saw it called airphone) all the time. Sometimes it was on the back of every seat and sometimes there was one per row. The one thing I remember is never seeing anyone ever use one. Obviously they must have been a flop because I don't see them anymore. I am sure they are still around, but not on the flights I fly. Were they a dud? Did anyone here ever talk on one? What was the reception quality? Did the airlines operated them or was that an outside company? My dad's business strictly forbid anyone to use one because they were just too expensive to use, on the company's nickel anyway. If it was your own money do what you want.

On a similar note I have seen a phone booth on some Amtrak trains in the lounge car with the "railphone" in it. Just like in the air I have never seen anyone use it.
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ikramerica
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:58 am

CO still has them. Never see anyone use them.
Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
 
Tbird
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 4:28 am

Didn't Airfone just lose their rights to the frequency for this service? I thought jetBlue and some other company got the rights and plan on using it for inflight webservice. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
 
KELPkid
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 4:42 am

Based on the failed premise that people would spend outrageous sums of money for the ability to phone people in flight...I think that that's where the things died. I wonder if the Airfone people payed the airlines for space on the planes or if the airlines paid Airfone?

I think lots of "great" ideas from the late 1990's/early 2000's failed because people assumed that anyone would pay outlandish sums of money for convenience. Remember Iridium, anyone? Little did they tell you that you had to dial an international number to call someone who had a sat. phone...wonder what the airtime charges were like.

I do miss the realtime stock market updates that the Airfone used to feature on their LCD screens...  Smile
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IFEMaster
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 4:43 am

I used one once on an AC flight from LHR to YYZ back in '98 or '99. It was for a company conference call that I absolutely HAD to be a part of, and the company deemed that it was cheaper to use the airfone than to change my travel arrangements. It ended up costing them nearly £1000 or something like that as the call was fairly lengthy.

Anyway, reception was good. Every now and then there was some crackle and hiss, but for the most part it was decent. I found that towards the end of the call there seemed to be a delay in me saying something and them hearing me.

Other than that occassion, I never used one again, and I've never seen anyone else using one.
Delivering Anecdotes of Dubious Relevance Since 1978
 
AeroWesty
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 4:48 am

Quoting Falstaff (Thread starter):
Did anyone here ever talk on one?

I used them a few times, and the quality wasn't bad. It was something like $10 for the first 3 minutes though. I recall flying with a friend once who decided to call her mother from the air (after enjoying one too many glasses of wine in Business class), and the conversation went something like this:

Friend: Mom, guess where I'm calling from?
Friend's Mom: Aren't you supposed to be flying to New York right now?
Friend: Yes! I'm calling from the plane!
Friend's Mom: Oh dear, that must be terribly expensive, don't let me keep you! Have fun! ::click::
Friend holding phone out and staring at it: Mom! Mom! We still have 2 1/2 minutes left to talk!
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fbgdavidson
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 5:16 am

I've never used one myself but saw someone on a BA flight from LHR-LAX about six years ago use one for the best part of an hour.

I don't have a BA inflight magazine to hand but I seem to remember the prices are extortionate even for inseat phone prices. $5 for connection plus 40 cents per second seems to ring a bell. At that rate the 45min phone call would be $1085.00.

Interesting thread on similar discussion here, and no I'm not ranting about the search function since it is well archived! RE: In Seat Phones, Who Uses Them? (by Airbazar Mar 22 2006 in Civil Aviation)
"My first job was selling doors, door to door, that's a tough job innit" - Bill Bailey
 
KDTWflyer
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 5:20 am

According to Wikipedia, in 2006 Airfone calls cost $3.99 per call and $4.99 a minute thereafter... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airfone
 
atlaaron
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:03 am

The thing that gets me is I would much rather have internet access in the aircraft than phone access. However, I don't understand why internet access has never "taken off". I believe Boeing just cut their program that was working on it.
 
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1337Delta764
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:08 am

Delta has been removing them from their aircraft during refurbishments. Some aircraft, such as the 767-400ER and 777-200ER, were not equipped with Verizon Airfone, but have a phone feature as part of the IFE, on the back of the IFE remote, even though it is not activated on the 767-400ER. Some 737-800s and newer 757-200s were equipped with a similar service provided by AT&T. I do believe that the 757s with the AT&T phones were all converted to Song and have been removed.
 
Flyboy14295
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:12 am

As Tbird said before, I belive that B6 is trying to incorporate an internet thingy into their planes. Now how that would work, I have no idea.
Greetings from New York. "Take It to the limit." -Eagles
 
VTBDflyer
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:24 am

My grandfather worked or owned Airfone I don't remember. Back in the days when the Airfone weighed about 30lbs and was in its own self contained box.

VTBDflyer
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WesternA318
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:30 am

Quoting Tbird (Reply 2):
Didn't Airfone just lose their rights to the frequency for this service? I thought jetBlue and some other company got the rights and plan on using it for inflight webservice. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Airfone was "invented" by GTE, who then sold the rights to Verizon a while back. I've used them on 3 occassions, from STL-IAH (735) and HKG-EWR (772) on CO, and LAX-STL on TW (in an L-1011). The reception was good, with a slight time delay on the end.
 
gigneil
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:42 am

Most United flights still feature the Airfone.

Quoting WesternA318 (Reply 12):
Airfone was "invented" by GTE, who then sold the rights to Verizon a while back

GTE is Verizon.

N
 
aa61hvy
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:46 am

I remember my dad called me in the mid 90's on DFW-CDG on AA...He was obviously very short with me: It was something on the lines of "hey Ryan, I'm over X (state). I just wanted to say hi and I've always wanted to make a call on this." I personally wanted to talk about the 763 but he said "okay, the minute is up, I gotta run. This call cost $10 per minute."
I understood considering I saw him maybe 3 hours before.
Go big or go home
 
caravaca
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:02 am

Quoting ATLAaron (Reply 8):
The thing that gets me is I would much rather have internet access in the aircraft than phone access. However, I don't understand why internet access has never "taken off". I believe Boeing just cut their program that was working on it.

That's right. "Connexion by Boeing" it's called if I'm not wrong. SAS is told to be the only airline to use it (in their A330 and A340's!). Some expert believed Airbus to take over Connexion now when Boeing has decided to end the experiment.

A Swedish newspaper quoted some American airline official who weren't interested in Internet connection at all, since passengers was told to be more interested in being able to use their cell phones up in the air. I disagree, since Skype is working perfectly alright on Scandinavian flights...
 
WesternA318
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:26 am

Quoting Gigneil (Reply 13):
GTE is Verizon.

Ahh, thanks for the clarification.
 
dank
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:31 am

Quoting Gigneil (Reply 13):
Most United flights still feature the Airfone.

Quoting WesternA318 (Reply 12):Airfone was "invented" by GTE, who then sold the rights to Verizon a while back
GTE is Verizon.

N

According to Wikipedia (trust it at your own risk), airfone was actually bought buy gte and the guy that started it also started the aforementioned railfone. The Verizon web site on it is at http://www22.verizon.com/airfone/ .

And Gigneil is correct, Verizon was formed as a result of the merger between Bell Atlantic and GTE. Ironically, after the ~20 years of existence of the "Baby" Bells, only three companies will remain after the AT&T (SBC renamed after they bought AT&T)/BellSouth merger is finished (which gets more confusing since AT&T wireless was spun off with BellSouth's wireless business to form Cingular which will be renamed back to AT&T after the merger)...

cheers.
 
AeroWesty
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:34 am

Quoting Caravaca (Reply 15):
Skype is working perfectly alright on Scandinavian flights.

Well now that would be something, I hadn't thought of that. Connexion was $29.95 per flight over the Atlantic, wasn't it? And you could use Skype the entire time, that'd be worth it right there.
International Homo of Mystery
 
coerj
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:35 am

I believe Verizon operates the service still on CO and UA flights. It is very expensive unless you pay a monthly subsciption which allows you to use it at rates similar to most payphones. Verizon Wireless customers also recieve some sort of discount. In my 15 years of flight I have not seen one person use this service.

One time I was contacted by relatives who were using the service. Their voices were very high and distorted, and seemed extremely distant.
 
dank
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 8:44 am

Quoting COERJ (Reply 19):
I believe Verizon operates the service still on CO and UA flights. It is very expensive unless you pay a monthly subsciption which allows you to use it at rates similar to most payphones. Verizon Wireless customers also recieve some sort of discount. In my 15 years of flight I have not seen one person use this service.

If Verizon doesn't find a buyer for this part of their business before the 4th of December, Airfone service will be discontinued.

cheers.
 
airbazar
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 9:06 am

Last time I flew US there was an airfone on every row. that was last Winter. I actually tried to use Airfone on that flight but for whatever reason couldn't make it work. I called Verizon from the airplane using the airfone and the operator had no idea what Airfone was  Smile The listed price for domestic flights is not that bad either. I think it's someting like $3 a minute. It's tought to run a business when the product you're selling doesn't work or your own employees don't know what it is.
 
phljjs
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 9:24 am

I used it once in 1999 on a US AIR flight from MCO-PHL. We were delayed and I had to update my family about my new arrival time. It cost me about $14 for a 2 minute phone call. Reception and call clarity was good, but it was too pricey. No wonder it never really took off.
 
n844aa
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 9:30 am

Around the time AA decided to pull the Airfones off the bulk of their fleet, I remember seeing a statistic that those things were used, fleet-wide, something like three times a week.

You can see why you don't find two of those on every row of an MD-80 anymore. We should probably all be grateful though that they weren't more reasonably priced.
New airplanes, new employees, low fares, all touchy-feely ... all of them are losers. -Gordon Bethune
 
bohica
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:59 am

Quoting Dank (Reply 17):
Verizon was formed as a result of the merger between Bell Atlantic and GTE. Ironically, after the ~20 years of existence of the "Baby" Bells, only three companies will remain after the AT&T (SBC renamed after they bought AT&T)/BellSouth merger is finished (which gets more confusing since AT&T wireless was spun off with BellSouth's wireless business to form Cingular which will be renamed back to AT&T after the merger)...

 Confused  Confused  Confused

This is way too confusing.  sarcastic 
 
dank
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 12:25 pm

Quoting Bohica (Reply 24):
     

This is way too confusing.   

Welcome to deregulation of the telecomunications industy  Wink
 
usair320
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:01 pm

Quoting 1337Delta764 (Reply 9):
Delta has been removing them from their aircraft during refurbishments. Some aircraft, such as the 767-400ER and 777-200ER, were not equipped with Verizon Airfone, but have a phone feature as part of the IFE, on the back of the IFE remote, even though it is not activated on the 767-400ER. Some 737-800s and newer 757-200s were equipped with a similar service provided by AT&T. I do believe that the 757s with the AT&T phones were all converted to Song and have been removed.

May I add that on the US A330 they have the Satalite phone as part of there entertainment system.
 
Gib
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:09 pm

I used them on occasion in the early 90's when I was flying every week. Of course, this was on the company dime. Decent connect time and above average reception/audio from what I recall. (lol @ me getting old)
 
57AZ
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:10 pm

Quoting Falstaff (Thread starter):
On a similar note I have seen a phone booth on some Amtrak trains in the lounge car with the "railphone" in it. Just like in the air I have never seen anyone use it.

That's old hat man. Rail phone has been around since the 1950s but was heavily dependant on electronic induction and I don't remember exactly how it worked. Basically the signal was transmitted from the unit on the train to lineside signal and telegraph wires that carried the signal in addition to either code for the signals or the separate telegraphic signals. A land based unit then sent the signal to the closest exchange where it entered the regular telephone system. Only a few railroads used it due to the amount of investment required in the hardware and the falling passenger traffic. Those railroads that used it only provided it on their top expresses.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
 
ckfred
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:47 pm

For all of the people who walk around constantly talking into a cell phone, I think they feel spending 1 to 4 hours in a plane with no way to make or receive calls comes as a pleasant "hideaway" from the world.

Another thing that helped bring about the end of air phones was the end of restrictions on using cell phones while the plane was sitting at the gate/hold pad or while taxiing after landing.

I did try something goofy once. I used to work in an office building that was under the departure pattern of Runway 22L at ORD. Some of the attorneys in the office were workaholics and worked weekends reguarly.

Once, while flying out of ORD for a vacation, I called the office and was going to say, "Look out the window. See the plane? I'm on it."

No one was in that afternoon.
 
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hawaiian717
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:00 pm

Quoting Caravaca (Reply 15):
That's right. "Connexion by Boeing" it's called if I'm not wrong. SAS is told to be the only airline to use it (in their A330 and A340's!).

This is quite simply wrong. According to their web site, ANA, Asiana, China Airlines, Etihad, JAL, Korean, Lufthansa, SAS, and Singapore offer it.

http://www.connexionbyboeing.com/ind...cfm?p=cbb.serviceavailable&lang=en

Anyone else remember when there were just a few airfones on the aircraft, usually around the galley or lavatory?
 
Spoke2Spoke
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 9:12 pm

If an airliner has 2 phones in every row, the weight of the equipment must be considerable. I've always wondered if the airline was making enough money from the service to continue justifying hauling all those telephones around the country.

Does Verizon pay the airline to offer the phone? What cut, if any, does the airline get from service charges?
...carelessness and overconfidence are usually far more dangerous than deliberately accepted risks. - Wilbur Wright
 
aeroperu
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:08 pm

I was on a flight from MEX to IAH a few years back. This lady behind me was on it as soon as we left the ground and she was pretty much forced off the thing by the flight attendant before we landed. Don't want to think about that bill. And no, she was not conducting business or anything worthwhile....she was gabbing with her best friend. All of us in business knew this was the case as she was speaking loud enough for all to hear!!!
Alas peruanas en los cielos del mundo....
 
TUGMASTER
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:18 pm

I remember SK installing them on their aircraft in the summer of 1996.
I was flying back from ARN after a particularly romantic midsummer encounter with a rather gorgeous swede.....(aren't they all).... anyway after boarding at ARN, a young lady came on the PA telling us she was from an Irish company (name escapes me) that has just started installing airfone's on SK aircraft, and for this particular flight, as a trial for pax, all calls would be free.

FREE....... you can imagine the fun i had on this 2 hr flight... the first person who got the call was the lady of midsummer... who thought it an absolutley brilliant romantic gesture that i should call her from 33000ft.... and promised all sorts of favours on my return to Sweden.

Any way, that's the only time i've ever used one.....but as you can imagine, the results were fantastic.

rgds

T
 
rootsair
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:40 pm

Quoting Kdtwflyer (Reply 7):
According to Wikipedia, in 2006 Airfone calls cost $3.99 per call and $4.99 a minute thereafter...

On IB 747&A340flights, I recall having seen the possibility to talk for 9.99$ the minute !
A man without the knowledge of his past history,culture and origins is like a tree without roots
 
C133
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:43 pm

Quoting Hawaiian717 (Reply 30):
Anyone else remember when there were just a few airfones on the aircraft, usually around the galley or lavatory?

When American first put Airfone on the DC-10s I think there were a total of 4 of them--one each on the bulkhead by L1 and R1, and another pair someplace in coach. The system worked, usually, and I once saw a guy yak on the thing most of the way from Boston to L.A.
Fine: Tax for doing wrong. Tax: Fine for doing well.
 
NeptunesCar
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sat Sep 02, 2006 10:57 pm

i remember Iridium's charges, they were $5 USD per minute, with other charges also. $5 charge didnt matter if you called in the same country or halfway around the world. there was a monthly service fee of like $100 USD too.

Apparently they had only 10% of the projected customer base, 10,000 out of 100,000 estimated customers, and after all the money spent, I think their satellites were meant to be destroyed by aiming them into earths atmos, unless some buyers were found.
You call it the world, we call it home. Pan Am.
 
aer lingus
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sun Sep 03, 2006 1:18 am

I remember BA had them on G-BNLZ 747-436 back in 1998 in Y Class. The phone is also a remote control if I remembered correctly.

You pull the phone out and swipe your credit card or you can buy a card onboard to use the phone. Putting the phone back in place is a problem especially if the cord doesn't wind itself back in place. There was also a sticker of some sort saying something similar to this '' If you are experiencing problems pitting the phone back in place please call cabin crew for assistance''.

 bigthumbsup 
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kanebear
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sun Sep 03, 2006 2:01 am

A few notes:

Airfone had two iterations. The first was analogue. That's one you may remember where the cordless stations were on bulkheads in the cabin. You went up, put your credit card in the reader, it released the cordless handset, you went back to your seat and talked, and that was that. The second was digital and came along 4 or 5 years later about the time Claircom rolled out (later to become AT&T when Craig McCaw's business interests were acquired). That's when phones were put into seatbacks and armrests throughout fleets.

Gotta remember that at the advent of the Airfone phenomenon, for most people cellphones didn't exist! Airfone started in 1984 or thereabouts. That is exactly when the first North American cellular systems were rolling out. Many cities didn't have coverage, coverage in quite a few cases didn't extend out to remote airport locations (which at the time were VERY far from city centers), handheld phones cost $4,000 in 1983 dollars and per minute charges were anywhere from .30 to .75 per minute with very few minutes included. Most phones were car installed... handhelds of the time weighed over a pound and were HUGE!

All that is in your home city! Unlike Europe, the US had (and technically still has) many different carriers separated by city and rural boundaries. Roaming was .50 to .99 per minute often with a $3 per day fee PER CITY. So if you flew MCI-ORD-LAX and used your phone during the connection, you were dinged $3 in ORD just for hitting 'Send' before the first .99 cent minute passed.

Also, even if you had a phone, you couldn't use it from the time the door closed 'till it opened at the gate. Personal cellphones hurt Airfone but what was the final nail in the coffin was the recent relaxation that allows phone usage on taxi. Also, usage was two or three people per FLIGHT on average making calls... not two or three per week.

Quoting Dank (Reply 20):
If Verizon doesn't find a buyer for this part of their business before the 4th of December, Airfone service will be discontinued.

cheers.

They lost the frequencies needed to operate the service and those have been reauctioned. Airfone is going away no matter what to be replaced with air/ground land-based internet service. Boeing's service is satellite based and is much higher cost. This will be a North American/US only system but should be much lower cost.

Quoting 57AZ (Reply 28):
That's old hat man. Rail phone has been around since the 1950s but was heavily dependant on electronic induction and I don't remember exactly how it worked. Basically the signal was transmitted from the unit on the train to lineside signal and telegraph wires that carried the signal in addition to either code for the signals or the separate telegraphic signals. A land based unit then sent the signal to the closest exchange where it entered the regular telephone system. Only a few railroads used it due to the amount of investment required in the hardware and the falling passenger traffic. Those railroads that used it only provided it on their top expresses.

Different system. Railfone as it exists now came out about the same time as Airfone (I recall Amtrak's trumpeting the service). It's basically a cellphone/payphone lash-up and is subject to the same coverage restrictions. On the DC-NY metroliner I used it a few times before I bought a cellphone. You'd see it go in and out of service at coverage boundaries just as a normal cellphone does. By that time, the old Railfone had been decommissioned for some time as they had no phone service and were advertising this as 'new'.

Quoting NeptunesCar (Reply 36):
i remember Iridium's charges, they were $5 USD per minute, with other charges also. $5 charge didnt matter if you called in the same country or halfway around the world. there was a monthly service fee of like $100 USD too.

Apparently they had only 10% of the projected customer base, 10,000 out of 100,000 estimated customers, and after all the money spent, I think their satellites were meant to be destroyed by aiming them into earths atmos, unless some buyers were found.

They're still around. I was a subscriber up until last year... GSM is so pervasive now that there're VERY few places in the world you can't use a GSM handset and I never visit them anymore. Now it's $24.99 a month and .99 a minute for service. Much more reasonable. Voice quality still stinks, data is still dog slow but it works anywhere anytime on the globe as long as you have a good view of the sky
 
galapagapop
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sun Sep 03, 2006 3:28 am

Online service is something I don't understand why its not being looked at. With a mere cost broken down to almost .08 cents per minute. they could charge .10 or more and still have a stron market. Look at all the other Wi-Fi listings and providers, hotels and all, that cost is actually what you'd expect on the road.

Cheers!
 
HikesWithEyes
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sun Sep 03, 2006 3:57 am

AS used to have them in the fleet.
The revenue just didn't justify hauling the extra weight around,
even though AT&T offset some of the cost.
The reception was, good, but a limited number of people could
use them at one time, so it seemed like you frequently were in queue
to place your call.
Even though cell phones weren't allowed in flight, their advent meant
that people could place a call as soon as they arrived, so this helped
kill off the airphones.
First, benzene in my Perrier, and now this!
 
KLM685
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sun Sep 03, 2006 4:07 am

Quoting Falstaff (Thread starter):
Did anyone here ever talk on one?

I remember my mom doing that arriving from the US just to tell my family ( there was a family reunion at my grandmother's house when we arrived) that we were getting there anytime soon and that we were in the airplane.

I don't recall seeing here doing it again after she saw the bill  Wink haha

Quoting AeroWesty (Reply 5):
Friend holding phone out and staring at it: Mom! Mom! We still have 2 1/2 minutes left to talk!

HHAHA I loved the anecdote


Cheers
KLM- The Best Airline in the World!
 
HorizonGirl
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RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Sun Sep 03, 2006 4:43 am

I remember seeing one of those on a DL flight when I was six, and wanting
to phone someone. My Mom said no, and looking back it's no surprise!
Those rates are insane...  Smile


Devon
Flying high on the Wings of the Great Northwest!
 
ADXMatt
Posts: 520
Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:07 pm

RE: Remember The "airfone"?

Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:37 pm

Verizon Airfone


Effective August 28, 2006, Verizon Airfone is discontinuing all commercial airline telephone services.

The above is on the Continental Website.

The phones no longer work and will be removed from each aircraft as it cycles through a mx check.

The widebody (767/777) aircraft still have the satcom phones and they continue to work. However the satcom is more expensive then the 69cent/min charge that Verizon extended to their wireless customers.

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