New Poll Shows Air Travelers Are Strongly Opposed to Lifting the Ban on Cell Phones in Flight
April 7, 2005
Washington, D.C. -- Frazzled nerves from constant phone chatter, trouble hearing emergency announcements, increased "air rage" – all of these were identified by air travelers as good reasons for the government to retain the current prohibition against airborne cell phone use, according to a new poll.
Sixty-three percent of the survey participants wanted to keep cell phone restrictions in place, while only 21 percent said it's time to let people talk on their phones during flights, survey results showed.
The poll, sponsored by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and the National Consumers League, was conducted as the Federal Communications Commission moves ahead with a rule-making process aimed at lifting its ban on cell phones and other portable electronic devices in the air.
The two groups hired Lauer Research Inc. to interview by telephone 702 air passengers, a mix of both frequent and occasional fliers. The survey, conducted between March 28 and April 2, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.
Negative responses to cell phones in flight surged to around the 80-percent level when air travelers focused on questions dealing with air rage, emergency communications, possible terrorist coordination using phones, and pilot reports that current cell phone technology can interfere with aircraft navigational equipment.
"Clearly, air travelers understand that cell phones in the close quarters of a commercial aircraft would not only compromise their comfort but their safety as well," said Association of Flight Attendants President Pat Friend.
Commenting for the National Consumers League, Vice President for Public Policy Susan Grant stated: "We're not surprised that people responded so negatively to the idea of cell phone use being allowed on airplanes. This survey and the popularity of the Do Not Call Registry for telemarketing illustrate the growing desire of many consumers to put up the 'do not disturb' sign and have some peace and quiet."
Among reasons poll participants cited for keeping the current cell phone ban in place:
- 78 percent of participants agreed that cell phone use in already-tense, close quarters of an airplane could lead to increased passenger unruliness and interfere with flight attendants' ability to maintain order.
- 78 percent believed that cell phones might distract passengers from hearing life-saving instructions in an emergency.
- 82 percent said cell phones might "make planes uncomfortable and be disruptive" to passengers wishing to read or nap.
- 87 percent were alarmed when informed that pilots have reported many cases of problems with navigational equipment possibly caused by cell phones or other electronic devices turned on in flight.
- 84 percent agreed that it is too soon to lift the ban while the Federal Aviation Administration is still studying whether cell phones interfere with aircraft systems.
In the event that the ban is lifted, 90 percent of the air travelers said airlines should be required to have planes fitted with systems to allow the flight crew to instantly disconnect all cell phone calls during safety and emergency announcements.
Seventy percent also wanted separate seating sections in airplane cabins apart from cell-phone users.
The FCC has already received about 4,450 comments from the public as part of the proceeding and they overwhelmingly oppose lifting the cell phone ban. The public comment period had been slated to end on April 11, however, yesterday at the request of the Justice Department, the FCC agreed to extend the deadline until May 26. The department cited "important regulatory, technical/operational and public safety/national security issues," and said more time was needed to allow interested parties to file comments.
AFA is the largest union of flight attendants, representing 46,000 members at 26 airlines. It is affiliated with the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America. (www.afanet.org – www.cwa-union.org)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. (www.nclnet.org)