SWISS’ trial of in-flight phone calls raises passenger experience questions

Passengers flying on SWISS’ new Boeing 777-300ER will be able to make use of a roaming phoning service, which is being trialled for 12 months.

SWISS’ announcement that it will trial an in-flight roaming phone call service on board its connectivity-equipped Boeing 777-300ER has again raised questions about the impact that on board calling services will have on the passenger experience.

Despite the subject of in-flight phone calls repeatedly raising concerns that such a service would disrupt fellow passengers and have a negative impact on their experience, SWISS revealed in a release: “As part of its new in-flight Internet option, SWISS will also be enabling its customers aloft to make phone calls and send SMS text messages and data via roaming telephony for a trial one-year period.” The cost of making in-flight calls will be determined by contractual agreements between service provider AeroMobile and the customer’s phone service provider.

Not only is SWISS seemingly relaxed about the potential knock-on effect of allowing passengers to make calls, it says the service is being trialled “in the light of recent market research among its customer base”, suggesting that passenger demand for on board phone calls is increasing.

To help reduce the risk of in-flight calls becoming an unwelcome annoyance rather than a positive passenger experience differentiator, during night flights roaming phone services will only be available at service times and not when the cabin lights have been dimmed.

When contacted by FTE to discuss the passenger experience implications relating to the introduction of the on board phoning service, a SWISS spokesman stated: “We will, of course, appeal to all our customers to give due consideration to their fellow travellers when using our in-flight phone and Internet facilities.

“We are convinced that this will meet a genuine guest need. But we will, of course, be monitoring this one-year trial phase very carefully, and will be carefully assessing any and all feedback from our customers.” The carrier stopped short of confirming that it could cut the trial short if the response from passengers is far from positive.

As for the airline’s new Wi-Fi service, SWISS will offer three data packages. The 20MB option will cost CHF 9 (€8), the 50MB option will be priced at CHF 19 (€17), and the 120MB option, which won’t support online streaming, will cost CHF 39 (€35). First Class passengers will be given access to a 50MB SWISS Connect data package for free. The carrier has stated that it is now considering whether to extend the in-flight connectivity service to its A330s and A340s.

While on board Wi-Fi will be a welcome addition, only time will tell as to how passengers react to the trial of in-flight phone calls.



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