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Survey: Most Americans actually oppose in-flight phone calls

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Americans aren't on board with cell phones on flights.
This article is more than 2 years old.

Last week the FCC caused a huge wave of annoyance amongst airline flyers in US, when the agency in charge of regulating cellphone use on the ground and in the air announced that it was considering opening up wireless access on flights, permitting wider use of mobile phones through both text messages and calls.

Rules against making cellphone calls during airline flights are “outdated and restrictive” the brand-new FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said. If accepted, the new proposal would lift the FCC’s 1991 ban on in-flight calls and data usage after a plane reaches 10,000 feet.

The howls of protest were vocal and wide-ranging, from flyers on social media, to flight attendants to airline companies, and of course traditional media. So we decided to test out the idea of in-fight calls with general American internet users, through two slightly different consumer surveys, one for in-flight text AND calls, and another for just in-flight calls. And while the results are predictable, the extent of opposition or indifference isn’t as high as media reaction would have you believe.

Important: The survey is not done on Skift readers but the general US internet adult population through Google Consumer Surveys. See previous Skift Asks here.

The headline takeaway: The majority of Americans oppose in-flight phone calls (55% just for phone calls), but more than one third of them don’t care if the new rules are approved: it just doesn’t bother them. Between 11-16% of Americans give an enthusiastic “Yes!!” to in-flight calls and texts.

The results of the survey, below.

These two single-question surveys were administered to the US internet population from Nov. 22-24, 2013 through Google Consumer Surveys, each with 1,001 responses. The methodology is explained here.

Survey 1:

Survey 2:

Breakdown by various demographic parameters, for Survey 2, on in-flight calls:

The takeaway: Male and female flyers are equal in their distaste for in-flight calls.

The takeaway: Not surprising, as the younger demographic is more accepting or doesn’t care about in-flight calls.

The takeaway: Northeasterners are more vehement in their opposition of in-flight calls.

The takeaway: Urban Americans are more vehement in their opposition to in-flight calls.

The takeaway: Richer Americans are more vehement for or against the in-flight calls.

Rafat Ali is CEO and co-founder of Skift.

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