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The sky's no limit to e-mail

April 25, 2001 

The last refuge of the tired, information-overloaded business traveller has just been snatched away. E-mail and the Internet have reached the skies.

Today, a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747, will land at Melbourne Airport carrying the world's first live commercial e-mail and Internet service for passengers.

The airline plans to install a connection at every seat in all three classes in its fleet of more than 100 wide-bodied jets.

Once you could board a flight, sit back, sup a glass of bubbly and relax secure in the knowledge that you were out of reach. That's gone. Get out the laptop. Get connected. Work. You're in a galley-ship. Pull your oar, mate. Here comes the boss with yet another e-mail.

Airlines and airports are keen to provide the level of connectedness they know many of their passengers demand.

Airlines are increasingly becoming mobile communications and entertainment centres.

As well as Internet and e-mail traffic, the big server computers going into the Singapore Airlines planes will provide every seat with an audio and video on-demand service, offering access to 50 movies, 60 hours of short video items and 100 audio CDs.

"You could fly from Melbourne to London and back, a 48-hour trip, and not touch more than one-third of the entertainment available," said Stephen Forshaw, Singapore Airlines' Australian spokesman.

Hundreds of thousands of Internet webpages will be downloaded and stored in the airline servers. There will be no general connection to the Web, no porn sites and, for the moment at least, probably no gambling, because the service will not be interactive.

"We'll be providing news, stock market reports, entertainment and similar material," Forshaw said.

Singapore Airlines claims to be first in the world to offer the satellite-based Internet and e-mail service, an adjunct to the in-flight international telephone system it has offered since 1993.

The Internet and e-mail services will be free until September.

Other airlines will soon follow Singapore into constant communications and non-stop entertainment, among them Virgin Atlantic and Scandinavian Airlines.

Qantas is understood to be looking at airborne e-mail systems but has no immediate plans to install one.

However, a company spokesperson said yesterday that an electronic in-flight entertainment system would go into the airline's fleet later this year.

Was taken from

By GARRY BARKER, THE AGE, Copyright © John Fairfax Holdings Ltd 2001

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