Survey: Airline passengers nix mobile phone talking in-flight

But they support Wi-Fi access for e-mail and other quiet functions

Nearly three-quarters of US mobile phone users recently surveyed don't want to ride an airplane with passengers talking on phones.

The results dovetail with what several airlines have apparently decided already as they prepare to roll out wireless in-flight services such as e-mail, text and IM access from the user's device. Those services, however, apparently will not include wireless talking.

Bruce Stewart, vice president of Connected Life Americas for Yahoo!, which commissioned the survey, said in a statement that the findings show users want in-flight wireless connections. But they "don't want to be forced to listen to the conversation of the passenger sitting next to them."

The online survey of 2,033 adults was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Yahoo! Mobile between April 29 and May 1. Of those who responded, 1,778 were mobile phone owners who have flown on an airplane.

Nationwide, 74 per cent of respondents said mobile phone use on airplanes should be restricted to silent features. In western parts of the U.S., that number increased to 83 per cent who wanted no talking.

As for silent features, 60 per cent said they would want to use them. Of that group, 38 per cent said they would use text messaging, 28 per cent said they would access e-mail and 29 per cent would play games.

The survey also found that if voice capabilities are allowed in-flight, 69 per cent want a designated area of a plane for people to talk. Yahoo! already has begun offering mobile applications for consumers, including Yahoo! Go 3.0, which provides mail, news and finance content with access to third-party widgets.

Earlier this year, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, announced testing of in-flight Wi-Fi; both said they would ban voice calls because of passenger concerns. Other airlines testing or planning to launch in-flight Wi-Fi in various forms include Virgin America, JetBlue Airways, Deutsche Lufthansa and Qantas Airways.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld

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