Those who thought that airplanes might remain a haven from emails, text messages and phone calls may want to think again. The majority of Americans would use free Wi-Fi (76.2 percent) and cellular calls (55.5 percent), and nearly half (44.7 percent) would use free text messaging services if provided on a flight, according to a new survey conducted by travel insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance.
The desire to stay connected is so pervasive that 40 percent of people don’t always put their phone on airplane mode and almost 14 percent of people have secretly snuck a text message or call during a flight.
The main reasons respondents reported wanting to have free in-flight text messaging and cellular calls are to use in case of an emergency (35 percent text messaging/34 percent cellular calls) and to stay connected with friends and family (38.6 percent text messaging/31.6 percent cellular calls). Additional responses included having the ability to coordinate airport pick-up (14.7 percent text messaging/15.4 percent cellular calls) and connection to work (11.7 percent text messaging/10.4 percent cellular calls).
The primary reason that people are not interested in text messaging and cellular calls relates to their fellow passengers’ usage. In fact, 27.7 percent deemed other passengers’ usage as the factor that makes them least interested in free text messaging services in-flight. For cellular calls, 30.9 percent were least interested due to noise level, and 20.3 percent because of fellow passengers’ usage.
Other reasons making flyers weary of connectivity include: safety concerns regarding in-flight usage (23.9 percent text messaging/15.2 percent cellular calls), being connected to work (19.9 percent text messaging/11.6 percent cellular calls), safety concerns regarding terrorism (19.6 percent text messaging/15.7 percent cellular calls) and being connected to family and friends (8.8 percent text messaging/6.2 percent cellular calls).
Among all three in-flight capability options, free Wi-Fi was preferred over texting and cellular calls, yet nearly half of respondents (40 percent) feel more obligated to work when they have Wi-Fi. It is no surprise then that the ability to use social media (22.4 percent) and streaming services (22.1 percent) were found most important, suggesting that while travelers are interested in staying “on” in flight, they prefer to use their devices for personal reasons instead of work.
“Despite talk of the need to unplug and a desire to digital detox, we’ve found that many Americans do want to be connected while in flight,” said Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA, in a written release. “Airlines have recognized this and are beginning to cater to this customer desire by offering free in-flight text messaging and Wi-Fi, and we anticipate they will continue to do so as technologies advance. In the future, passengers may even be able to make phone calls on flights, which could lead to new airline design and sources of revenue, like quiet cabins, which 46 percent of Americans would consider paying extra for if airlines did allow phone calls.”