By KEITH L. ALEXANDER
American Airlines is scrapping its in-flight phones.
As of March 31, the world's largest airline will no longer have the AT & amp;T Wireless phones on 654 of its planes used on domestic flights. Only its Boeing 777s and 767-300s, which are used mainly for international flights, will keep the service.
The phones have been on American's planes since 1996, but the airline found that fewer than three calls a day per plane were being made. To avoid the $2.99 connection fee and a charge of $7.60 a minute plus tax, many passengers prefer to use their personal cell phones, which is permitted in airports and on planes before their doors close.
American spokesman Todd Burke said removing the phones will eliminate maintenance costs and reduce the weight of the planes, which will lower fuel costs.
Others to follow: With the airline industry losing a record $7 billion last year, other airlines are expected to follow American and remove in-flight phones, according to industry experts. Southwest Airlines was the first major airline to do so, in August.
Mark Siegel of AT & amp;T Wireless said the company was leaving the in-flight phone business. With more people using cell phones, aviation no longer fits into AT & amp;T's long-term business plans, he said.
Other airlines that use AT & amp;T will either have to switch to another phone service or pull out their in-flight phones, according to industry sources.