Roll Out Of Air France's In-Flight Mobile Phone Service Experiences Turbulence

Air France's in-flight mobile phone trial has finally taken off, but with bumpy results. The New York Times hitched a ride on the French carrier recently and found several bugs in the system:

• The quality is patchy and keeps most in-flight calls short and tinny-sounding. One receiver of an OnAir call complained that it sounded like "talking to a small robot."
• Hefty roaming charges of up to 3 euros ($5.08) a minute.
• Calls made from the plane to the ground usually need a few tries to actually connect. Calls made from the ground to the plane tend to go directly to voice mail.
• Only six passengers can get a signal at any one time to avoid interfering with aircraft equipment. OnAir says the capacity will double to 12 in the coming weeks.
• Blackberry users had trouble downloading e-mail messages

Oh yeah, and there's that whole factor of whether people want to be disturbed by other passengers yakking on mobile phones in the first place. At least one other airline, Lufthansa, decided not to offer the service after customers pointedly asked them not to. [New York Times]