Passengers flying with Dubai-based airline Emirates will be able to use their mobile phones on board from January.
The airline is claiming victory in the race to be first to offer the service; other airlines had already signalled their intention to allow mobile use.
To minimise irritation to fellow travellers, Emirates will ask passengers to switch their phones to silent or vibrate mode throughout the flight.
Calls will cost about £2 a minute – cheaper than Emirates’ existing on-board phones which cost £3 a minute.
Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said: ‘We are delighted to offer the choice of mobile phone use to passengers who would like to make contact with friends, family or colleagues while flying with us.’
The move follows a deal between Emirates and telecoms company AeroMobile.
AeroMobile President David Poltorak said: ‘We are delighted that Emirates has taken the lead in introducing our service across its fleet. This is a historic step forward for the aviation industry.
‘We believe that the ability to communicate efficiently, easily and safely when on board flights will become an essential feature of business and leisure travel. We are currently talking to a number of other airlines about extending the service to their fleets.’
Earlier this year no-fills airline Ryanair announced plans to allow passengers to use their mobile phones during flights.
Ryanair has completed a deal with communications company OnAir to enable mobile use on all its Boeing 737s.
Passengers should be able to use a mobile and hand-held devices such as the Blackberry, starting from the middle of next year.
They’ll be able to call, text and email using their mobile phones at rates which will mirror international roaming charges.