Why Weren't Malaysia Airlines' Passengers Texting or Tweeting? [UPDATED]
In 2008, Malaysia Airlines teamed up with the British company AeroMobile and launched a new service allowing passengers to send and receive calls and text messages on their mobile phones while in the air. The service was made available on single Boeing 777-200 aircraft including the Asian routes of China and Japan.
Malaysia Airlines also made assurances that the satellite system was safe and would not affect the aircraft systems and/or ground telecommunication networks.
So it stands to reason that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 passengers would have had access to this in-flight mobile phone and data service. However to date, there is no record of any text messages or tweets received by family, friends or business associates of these passengers? Why?
Could it be Cost?International roaming rates on depend on each cell phone operator, but usually costs in the range of $3-5 per minute are average - which is fairly pricey. So this would probably limit the number of people on the flight that would have actually used the service. But then again, chances are probable that businessmen on an expense account or those with a little more disposable income because the were vacationing would have seen this as opportunity to communicate with folks on the ground.
FCC's DecisionInflight mobile service is still somewhat delayed in becoming universal throughout the world. Even the FCC has not yet ruled on usage. In fact a 2014 proposal to expand consumer access to inflight mobile services is yet to be determined. If adopted, it will revert the decision whether or not to allow such services to the individual airlines flying above 10,000 feet.
What other Airlines offer this Service?In addition to Malaysia Airlines, most of the international airlines that offer mobile in-flight services are customers of Mobile OnAir or Aeromobile, which are the two biggest competing companies that provide phone service to airlines. International airlines like Are Lingus does not allow voice calls, only WiFi and texting. Air France allows texts and WiFi only on long-haul B77-200 planes and British Airways allows WiFi, voice calls and texting on their Club World London City planes, using the mobile service provider On Air.
TimelineThe flight carrying 227 passengers from 14 countries along with 12 crew members took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:41AM MYT Saturday, March 8, 2014 [11:41AM EST, Friday March 7]. However, it wasn't until 2:40AM MYT that traffic control lost contact with the plane. This would have given the passengers almost two full hours after take-off to use their phones for data transfers. But to date there's been no news report, tweets, photos or status updates that references any text messages that were transmitted by any of the passengers or crew members.
Previous Tweets?Tweets are now surfacing with photos of some of the crew members seemingly photographed prior to the flight. Philip Wood (one of three American passengers on this flight), an IBM executive who had relocated to Malaysia recently was captured in this photo outside his office.
However another Twitpic featuring MH370 Flight steward, Mr. Andrew Nari is questionable. Since the photo showed Mr. Nari and a passenger within an airplane and the timing seemed like it could have been tweeted from this flight, I queried @PapaGomo by tweet, if it came from the actual flight -- to which he retweeted back with an affirmative, "yes."
Not thoroughly convinced of the legitimacy of this exchange - I am currently reaching out to others for a second confirmation on whether or not this tweet was indeed sent from Flight MH370.
Why The Silence?Conspiracy theories will run rampant in the ensuing days and weeks as the airlines and government officials attempt to separate fact from fiction. There's already been reports about two stolen passports belonging to Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi - allowing for two imposters to board the plane in their place (possible terrorists?)
But putting speculation aside, if there was a sudden emergency that prompted the need to turn off the mobile service during that early two-hour window, wouldn't the pilot and co-pilot have had an opportunity to communicate something about that service shut-down to air traffic control or their fellow airline personnel on the ground?
On the flipside, if this service was fully operational during this timeframe, why couldn't one of the ill-fated 239 have reached out? And if not mainstream media why hasn't social media been privy to any form of communication in this regard. Why the silence? Why the tragic silence?
Why No GPS Tracking?UPDATE: March 10, 2014 - According to a report in the Washington Post, a few of the passengers' relatives were able to call the cellphones of their loved ones or find them on a Chinese instant messenger service called QQ. This indicates that some of the passengers' phones were somehow still online. They also heard "ringing tones" on the other end which indicated the phone were still operational on Sunday and Monday.
According to Singapore’s Strait Times, a Malaysia Airlines official, Hugh Dunleavy, told families that the company had tried calling mobile phones of crew members as well and that they had also rang. The company turned over those phone numbers to the Chinese authorities.
Both these reports also indicate the possibility of using Global Positioning System [GPS] to find the coordinate locations of these phones. Why hasn't this been done? If the phones are still operating, these unanswered questions might also suggest the possibility as to whether or not the plane has surfaced somewhere or was hijacked? Yet, both scenarios appear doubtful, because if either were the case, why haven't the rescue teams been able to spot the plane from the air, and if hijackers were involved why haven't they made their case known to the public?