AirCal said Monday that it has begun to install air-to-land telephones in its airplanes in its latest bid to woo corporate passengers in the hotly competitive West Coast corridor.
The Newport Beach-based airline, which earlier this year launched an "Almost First Class" advertising campaign and tried to lure customers with free champagne and croissants, said that in the past month it has placed telephones in half of its 24 Boeing jets and will outfit the rest as soon as possible.
While acknowledging that passenger telephones have become a relatively common amenity offered by such transcontinental airlines as TWA and American, AirCal boasted that it now is the first West Coast airline to provide the service.
A spokesman for PSA, AirCal's major competitor on the heavily traveled Los Angeles-to-Seattle corridor, said it has no plans to follow suit by installing telephones in its planes because its surveys show that passengers have little interest in making telephone calls while aloft.
But AirCal spokesman Bill Bell said: "We know 70% of our passengers are business travelers, and we feel it is something they will use." So far, he added, the telephones have proven popular.
AirCal officials said the telephones being installed--one in the front and another in the rear--are manufactured by AirFone Inc., based in Oakbrook, Ill. Using the telephones, passengers can place calls anywhere in the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, at a cost of $7.50 for the first three minutes and $1.25 for each additional minute.
Bell said that passengers use the telephones by slipping a credit card into the console, dialing a number, then taking the cordless receiver back to their seat. When their conversation ends, they return the receiver and reclaim their credit card.
Calls may be charged on several major credit cards: Air Travel Card, American Express, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. AirCal officials said the charges will appear on the customer's credit card statement.