Canadians support texting and Internet access on commercial flights, but not voice calls

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Virgin Atlantic is the newest airline to join in the mobile usage game – the introduction of Virgin's new A330 Airbus means that passengers flying between London and New York will be able to make calls, send text/email messages, and access the web via GPRS. With the service coming within 250 miles of North American airspace for the first time, Canadians support the idea of having mobile text and data usage capabilities during flight, but unquestionably do not want to contend with the added cabin noise associated with voice calls.



According to Harris/Decima Vice-President Patricia Thacker, “the majority of Canadians like the idea of being connected while in flight but they do not want to be a captive audience to someone else’s phone calls.”


  • In a nation with over 25 million mobile phones in use, the appeal of making calls onboard flights is underwhelming; just over one third of Canadians think mobile calls should be permitted, and only three in ten would engage in the practice if allowed. Increased cabin noise is clearly the main drawback; nearly six in ten indicated that they would be “annoyed” if people were on their phones during a flight. Further, three quarters of Canadians would want designated quiet zones on airplanes if mobile connectivity was permitted.
  • While voice calls are undoubtedly out of favor, there is apparent support for mobile text and data capabilities during flights; half of Canadians indicated they would access the Internet and send text/email messages during flight if allowed. Of particular significance, four in ten Canadians said they would actually prefer an airline that offered mobile access over one that did not; which would certainly indicate there is a market for these services in Canada.
  • For some, the perceived safety concerns associated with mobile usage during flights comes into play. Nearly four in ten Canadians agree with the statement that “using mobile devices on airplanes is unsafe”, despite the fact that not a single airplane crash has been proven to be caused by the use of a mobile device. In all, a quarter of Canadians would avoid flying an airline that offered mobile access.
  • In general, Canadians who have taken a trip on a commercial airline in the past 12 months are more opposed to passengers making phone calls during flights, and more in support of having access to the Internet, text messaging and emails, when compared to Canadians who have not taken a flight in the past year.
  • As would be expected, Business travellers also show some strong preferences towards mobile usage. “Business travellers have very specific needs and wants when it comes to travel, and in this area, it’s no different. They evidently would prefer an airline that provided mobile access over one that did not”, according to Ms. Thacker. Where Business travellers stand out vs. travellers at large is their desire to connect via text and/or email during flights; with two-thirds likely to do so if allowed.

Each week, Harris/Decima interviews just over 1,000 Canadians through teleVox, the company’s national telephone omnibus survey. The most recent data was gathered between May 17th and 20th, 2012. The margin of error for this sample size is 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.