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Indian fliers may soon be able to make calls, browse net on board

Aviation regulator DGCA has now allowed airlines to offer WI-FI on board

December 02, 2020 / 11:36 AM IST
Representative image

Representative image

Imagine doing a call with your friend while on board a flight at 30,000 feet and sharing the magnificent view from your window seat? Or, browsing the net to complete your presentation that needs to be ready for a meeting planned at your destination?

All this may be soon possible, with aviation regulator DGCA approving the use of voice and data through Wi-Fi while on board a flight. Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Kumar paved the way through a notification on November 24. The notification includes fresh Civil Aviation Requirements, or CAR, that airlines will have to follow.

A senior official told Moneycontrol that airlines can immediately apply to introduce the service to their customers.

As of now, Vistara was the only airline to have this service, on its Delhi to London flights. The airline had introduced Wi-Fi on board the Boeing B787-9 aircraft in September. The company had said it will add this service on its Airbus A321neo aircraft, which will initially fly on domestic routes, after getting regulatory approval. The latest notification from the DGCA is expected to hasten the process.

The latest communication comes after the regulator had framed the draft rules in August this year. The first step towards this was taken in 2018, when the government said it will allow in-flight connectivity. Since then, some companies have got the approval to provide this service to airlines. In 2019, Hughes Communications India was the first to get this license.

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What the CAR says

The civil aviation requirements make it clear that fliers must continue to keep their phones and tablets in flight mode.

And one will have to wait a bit before he or she starts using the Wi-FI provided by the airline. The CAR says that the aircraft has to reach a minimum height of 10,000 meters before a flier can start browsing the net or make a call.

The pilot has the right to deactivate the facility whenever required. Any violation could land you in trouble, even though the regulator hasn't yet specified the penalty.

On the airlines part, they need to seek approval from the regulator for each aircraft type they operate. The DGCA has also set down a list of requirements for airlines to train their crew.

Will the airlines provide this for free, or will there be a tariff? Most probably, the carriers could introduce the service with some incentives, but will soon start charging it.

India is catching up with other countries when it comes to the use of WI-FI on board. Vinamra Longani, an aviation analyst and head of operations at aviation law firm Sarin & C0, recalled doing video calls on flights to London. The CAR doesn't specify anything on video calls, yet.

"As of now, foreign airlines too can't have WI-FI when using airspace in India, even when they are overflying. Some had to manually tune-off when overflying India and some stopped working automatically," he said.

Things may change now, after the latest communication from the DGCA.
Moneycontrol News
first published: Dec 2, 2020 11:17 am

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