CNET News reported that Chinese airline Shenzhen Airlines will allow passengers to use their cell phones during flights by mid-2009.

Shenzhen Airlines, which operates more than 130 routes within China and Asia, is to install in-flight communication services developed by a joint venture, OnAir, of Airbus and airline IT firm SITA. OnAir’s onboard equipment incorporates technology from Tenzing, the company that pioneered in-flight e-mail, with Inmarsat providing the satellite communications.

Three demo aircrafts are also being readied for the Beijing Olympic Games in August 2008. Passengers would be able to use smart phones and basic handsets to send e-mail and make voice calls during flights.

The deal with Shenzhen is the third such agreement OnAir has secured that covers an airline’s whole fleet, following a pact signed last summer with low-cost carrier Ryanair and an agreement in June this year with AirAsia. The Ryanair in-flight communications service is due to go live by the end of this year, according to an OnAir spokesman, and the AirAsia service is slated to launch in early 2009.


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