American hanging up on in-flight phones

FA Mikey

Aug 19, 2002
American hanging up on in-flight phones
Airline says the service is ''no longer profitable''; low use, cellphones cited
By KATIE FAIRBANK / The Dallas Morning News
American Airlines Inc. has hung up its in-flight phone service. There will be no more calls home from 35,000 feet.
Even so, passengers should expect to see the handsets stuck in their seat backs for some time.
It takes quite a bit of work to remove these phones, said John Hotard, a spokesman for the Fort Worth-based airline. You have to take out the seats and take out all the wiring. You might think you could just cut it out and leave the wiring behind, but you can''t. It''s an airplane. It''s not that easy.
American''s parent company, AMR Corp., said it will remove the AT&T Wireless phones during regular maintenance work. That could take a couple of years, Mr. Hotard said.
The phones were once a favorite of business travelers, but their popularity waned as cellphones became popular, American officials say.
And when the Federal Aviation Administration allowed passengers to use their cellphones before the plane doors closed at takeoff and after the doors opened when the plane landed, in-flight phone usage really dropped.
Plus, cellphone calls are usually cheaper. The in-flight phone calls cost about $4 a minute.
It all really cut down the usage of the onboard phones, Mr. Hotard said. It was no longer profitable to keep the service.
American isn''t alone in dropping in-flight phones. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. removed them a couple of years ago after noticing that people weren''t using them often.
Two things happened – the usage was so low, coupled with the fact that the FAA relaxed its cellphone use rules. With the majority of our flights about an hour long, there wasn''t a need to have a phone in flight for that period of time, said Southwest spokeswoman Linda Rutherford.
Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc. is flying the other direction.
We still have a demand for the service, spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said. In fact, on our [Boeing] 757 fleet, we''ve begun adding to the capabilities of the air phone service.
Continental also offers JetConnect Service, which allows access to some Web sites. There''s a $3.99 connection fee, and the service costs $3.99 per minute.
Customers aren''t yet able to access the entire Web, but through that service will be able to get news and information that is updated every 15 minutes, Mr. Johnson said. The bottom line is we''re finding not only does there seem to be a demand for the phone service, but also for even greater connectivity between customers in the air and services on the ground.
Dawn Deeks, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, said she hasn''t noticed that anyone is missing the phones.
I fly a lot, and I''ve never seen anybody even use them, she said.


Sep 7, 2002
I noticed that there seemed to be low usage of the inflight phones. I used generally only to let folks know that yes, I made a connection and was on schedule.

How are cell phones an advantage? Except that now one stands in the aisle, with one impatient road warrior in front and another behind you trying to save precious seconds. Just like in their car driving their wheeled armoir with half a hand, when it takes two.

The inflight phones had bad reception on the ground, if they weren't de-actived right after arrival. Cell phones are still banned in the air. I just hope that the internet phone doesn't make it on board too soon, how about sitting between two passengers both taliking thru their computers? Preferably in different languages.

Two different services, inflight phone service was probably just too expensive.


Aug 20, 2002
On 12/26/2002 8:43:09 AM FA Mikey wrote:

They price was out of line. Five dollars to set up the call, then 5 dollars a min.

Probably priced by the same people who dream up ticket prices...


Sep 2, 2002
There were special unpublished * numbers to get to various reservations desks (general, spanish-speaking, Platinum, and Executive Platinum) without any charges. Those were nice, especially during bad weather. But at $4/minute, making any other calls just didn't make sense to me.

Although I once saw somebody in the F section of a 762 use one for two hours (!!) on a ORD-SFO flight. It sounded like he was on the way back putting together some sort of international deal and had flown full J, so he probably wasn't paying the $240/hour himself.


Aug 19, 2002
This is ancient news! The in-flight phones were taken out of service as of March 31, 2002.[BR][BR][BR]
[DIV style="PADDING-TOP: 6px"][B class=a5]Airline grounds in-flight phone service[/B] [/DIV][BR][BR]
[DIV class=a2]By [A href=""]Sam Ames [/A][BR]Staff Writer[BR]February 6, 2002, 4:20 PM PT[BR][/DIV][BR][SPAN class=a2]Airlines are throwing away those phones built into the seats, and they're blaming it all on cell phones. [BR][BR]American Airlines will discontinue its AT&T in-flight phone service by March 31, a spokesman for the airline said Wednesday. [BR][BR]"Almost since their installation in 1996, we've seen a dramatic decrease in the use of these phones," said American Airlines spokesman Todd Burke, who added that the service averages about three calls a day per aircraft. [BR][BR][SPAN class=a2]Southwest Airlines started removing AT&T phones from its planes Aug. 1 last year. [BR][BR]"We've noticed with the prevalence of cell phones that passengers just weren't using the in-flight service," said Beth Harbin, a spokeswoman for Southwest, which allows passengers to make mobile phone calls until the aircraft doors close before takeoff. [BR][BR]The phone service on American costs $2.99 to connect a call to AT&T's land-based network and then charges $7.60 a minute, plus tax, substantially more than the cost of a cell phone call in an airport terminal.[BR][BR]Burke would not say when the decision was reached, only that AT&T and American jointly decided to halt the service recently. [BR][BR]American will stop the service by March 31 and then take steps to remove the phones from its airplanes. [BR][BR]The airline will keep other communication services working. Passengers on Boeing 777 and Boeing 767-300 aircraft, which mainly fly international routes, will continue to offer an in-flight phone service that connects to an orbiting satellite for a $5 connection fee and a rate of $10 a minute.[BR][BR][A href=""][/A][/SPAN][/SPAN]
On 12/26/2002 9:21:00 PM TWAnr wrote:

This is ancient news! The in-flight phones were taken out of service as of March 31, 2002.


Perhaps nobody noticed that they'd been turned off during the past 9 months...