Posts tagged “airfone”

Verizon to End Airline Telephone Service

I wrote (a while back) about phone calls on airplanes, and was intrigued to see this news today

Verizon Airfone, whose handsets have graced the backs of airline seats for more than two decades, will end its phone service on commercial airliners before the end of the year.

Verizon Communications, Airfone’s parent company, has decided instead to focus on its faster-growing broadband, cellular and television businesses, Jim Pilcher, the director of marketing at Verizon Airfone, said yesterday.

Though Mr. Pilcher declined to say how many customers Airfone has, industry analysts said the service was rarely used. Verizon, they said, would have had to spend heavily to install newer, more compelling technology.

“The business they went after is the calling business, and the reality is no one sits on planes and makes calls,” said Jonathan Schildkraut, a telecommunications analyst at Jefferies & Company. Verizon has “much bigger fish to fry,” he said.

Airfone, which Verizon acquired when it bought GTE in 2000, has phones in about 1,000 planes operated by Continental, Delta, United Airlines and US Airways. The company will work with the airlines to figure out how to remove the phones and other equipment from the planes.

Airfone, which began service 21 years ago, is still exploring the option of selling the business. Mr. Pilcher declined to say whether his company had identified any potential buyers.

Airfone will continue to provide telecommunications services on about 3,400 corporate and government planes.

I’ve rarely seen the phones used, as their expert suggests. Do we think data services (i.e., get your laptop on the Internet while you fly) is a bigger fish? Is using your own personal cell phone a bigger fish? Maybe we’ll get seatback LCD screens in place of the phones. Or in-seat pretzel dispensers that could make use of the credit-card-swiping mechanism already in place?


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