Ryanair has launched Europe's first fleet-wide in-flight mobile phone service allowing passengers to text and make calls from their own handsets.

State-of-the-art technology has already been fitted on 20 of the carrier's mainly Dublin-based aircraft as part of a six-month trial, which is the first step in fitting out the entire fleet.

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said he expects the service to be popular, particularly with teenagers and tourists looking to keep in touch while travelling.

'It's your choice whether you want to use it or not,' Mr O'Leary said.

'Certainly I think it will be very welcome for people who want to make and receive urgent or important calls.

'I think the big users here would be teenagers, people generally visiting friends and family.'

Each plane will be fitted with a special antennae allowing the mobile phone or blackberry signal to be bounced via a satellite to the ground, where it is then routed to the networks.

The service, which is being provided by Swiss in-flight communications company OnAir, will initially be available to O2 customers, as well as 50 other operators across Europe.

Vodafone Ireland has said it has decided not to make it available to its customers as it wants to determine demand for the product.

Talks are ongoing with Meteor and 3.

Customers will be charged around 50 cent for text messages, between €2 and €3 per minute for a call, and €1 and €2 for smart phone email sessions, depending on your operator.

A charge will also be levied to receive a call, but not a text message.

A maximum of six people will be allowed to make calls at a time, although this is likely to increase.

Mr O'Leary declined to say how much Ryanair will make from the service, but claimed it was a small chunk compared to the slice taken by OnAir and the mobile phone operators.

But he admitted it would take a six-figure sum to fit out each aircraft with the technology.

Around 50 aircraft will be upgraded over the six-month trial period, with all 170 planes expected to be kitted out within 18 months.

'If for some remarkable reason it proves to be very unsuccessful, then we may take a decision not to continue the roll out programme,' Mr O'Leary said.

'But I think everywhere else in the world where people have been given the facility to use their mobile phones and Blackberrys it has proven to be remarkably successful.'

The service will only be switched on after take-off and disconnected before landing, to avoid the technology interfering with communications between the plane and ground control.

It can also be knocked off mid-air if required, although the airline stressed the technology was safe to use in-flight.