Passengers Ignore Phone Safety on Airplanes, Survey Shows

person holding cell phone

Have you ever been on an airplane just before takeoff, as the pilot instructs passengers to turn on “airplane mode” over the PA system, and you notice another passenger engrossed in a video call on their smartphone? This happens too often even though flight attendants always ask travelers to turn off phone connectivity for everyone’s safety. Flight attendants don’t ask passengers to do this for their health; according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), “cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones.” [1] However, a recent survey by AT&T’s All Home Connections shows that most passengers ignore phone safety on airplanes, despite FCC rules.

Airplane Phone Safety Statistics

AT&T’s reseller, All Home Connections surveyed 1,000 travelers by asking upfront what they do with their smartphones on an airplane. The answers were astounding, especially to anyone with aviophobia. The survey shows 1 in 15 passengers ignore phone safety on airplanes by not turning off their smartphones or switching it to airplane mode. [2] 67% of respondents said they turn off their smartphones, while 27% switch theirs to airplane mode, and males are twice as likely to disregard phone safety on airplanes.

Many passengers think “airplane mode” doesn’t affect communication between the pilots and the dispatchers in charge of air traffic safety, so All Home Connections asked the experienced pilot and author of “Behind the Flight Deck Door,” Brett Manders if airplane mode makes a difference. He confirmed that “cell phones can and do interfere with radio transmissions,” [2] and even though it’s not an issue for a handful of individuals to not switch on “airplane mode,” it can be a huge problem if everyone did not follow these instructions.

Poor Airplane Cell Phone Etiquette

Besides the topic of “airplane mode,” All Home Connections’ survey also covered the annoying phone habits of airplane passengers. Playing audio without headphones was considered the most annoying phone habit from 83% of the participants and using a laptop or bright cell phone screen during lights out came in second with 64% of the participants stating it was annoying. However, 48% and 65% of the respondents of the offenses, respectively, don’t see a need for punishment.


If you’d like to learn more about different airplane surveys or need some help in finding the right dispatcher jobs, contact our aviation crew at the Sheffield School of Aeronautics at 954-581-6022 today!


[1] Federal Aviation Administration – Press Release – FAA to Allow Airlines to Expand Use of Personal Electronics

[2] All Homes Connections – Too Bright for No Lights: A Survey of Airplane Cell Phone Etiquette

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