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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 Decision

Inflight 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.

Timeline

The 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?


 

 

 

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Comments
Mar 9, 2014
by Anonymous

According to my experience,

According to my experience, when flight is reaching China, in-flight wifi and internet service will shut down. Besides, most lessen gets are from China, they won't use Twitter.

Anyway, I doubt the plane got wifi service.

Mar 9, 2014
by Anonymous

About the Andrew Nari guy, I

About the Andrew Nari guy, I am 100% sure that the pic is not from the flight because the guy on the right is the national badminton athlete and he wasn't on the flight. That and @PapaGomo is one of the most unreliable malaysian on twitter.

Mar 9, 2014
by Anonymous

Yes, the other person in the

Yes, the other person in the Andrew Nari picture is Lee Chong Wei, who is playing in a badminton tournament in England right now.

Mar 9, 2014
by Ron Callari
Ron Callari's picture

Thanks for the clarification

Thanks for the clarification on the @PapaGomo tweet and identifying the other passenger as Lee Chong Wei. As noted in the article, I was reaching out to others to clarify the legitimacy of the tweet and photo - and your comments have assisted in that endeavor. 

Mar 9, 2014
by Anonymous

oh my, you tried to

Mar 9, 2014
by Ron Callari
Ron Callari's picture

Thanks for the additional

Thanks for the additional resource on @PapaGomo - glad that this article  provided a forum to expose folks like this that are fast and loose with the truth. 

Mar 9, 2014
by Anonymous

Hi Ron, I think there was a

Hi Ron,
I think there was a misunderstanding on papagomo's part mainly on his full comprehension of your question. The pix may had been snapped on the actual airplane but not on the actual date of departure.

Mar 10, 2014
by Anonymous

It was a red-eye flight, im

It was a red-eye flight, im assuming 80% of the passengers were trying to sleep

Mar 10, 2014
by Anonymous

According to the Washington

According to the Washington Post, the phones of the passengers and crew appeared to be functioning after the plane disappeared:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/vanished-malaysia-airlines-flight-le...

One of the most eerie rumors came after a few relatives said they were able to call the cellphones of their loved ones or find them on a Chinese instant messenger service called QQ that indicated that their phones were still somehow online.

A migrant worker in the room said that several other workers from his company were on the plane, including his brother-in-law. Among them, the QQ accounts of three still showed that they were online, he said Sunday afternoon.

Adding to the mystery, other relatives in the room said that when they dialed some passengers’ numbers, they seemed to get ringing tones on the other side even though the calls were not picked up.

The phantom calls triggered a new level of desperation and anger for some. They tried repeatedly Sunday and Monday to ask airline and police officials about the ringing calls and QQ accounts. However unlikely it was, many thought the phones might still be on, and that if authorities just tracked them down, their relatives might be found. But they were largely ignored.

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 Chinese authorities.

Mar 29, 2014
by Anonymous

Also, the cabin in this

Also, the cabin in this Twitter photo is not from a 777. This is an A380 cabin.