Survey: Airline passengers nix cell phone talking in-flight

But they support Wi-Fi access for e-mail and other quiet functions

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. cell phone users recently surveyed don't want to ride in airplanes with passengers talking on phones.

The results dovetail with what several airlines have apparently decided already as they prepare to roll out wireless in-flight services such as e-mail, text and instant messaging access from user devices. Those services, however, apparently will not include wireless talking.

Bruce Stewart, vice president of Connected Life Americas at Yahoo Inc., which commissioned the survey, said in a statement that the findings show that users want in-flight wireless connections. But they "don't want to be forced to listen to the conversation of the passenger sitting next to them," he said.

The online survey of 2,033 adults was conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. on behalf of Yahoo Mobile between April 29 and May 1. Of those who responded, 1,778 were cell phone owners who have flown on an airplane.

Nationwide, 74% of respondents said cell phone use on airplanes should be restricted to silent features. In western parts of the U.S., that number increased to 83% who wanted no talking.

As for silent features, 60% said they would want to use them. Of that group, 38% said they would use text messaging, 28% said they would access e-mail, and 29% would play games.

The survey also found that if voice capabilities are allowed in-flight, 69% want a designated area of a plane for people to talk. Yahoo has already begun offering mobile applications for consumers, including Yahoo Go 3.0, which provides mail, news and finance content with access to third-party widgets.

Earlier this year, American Airlines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. announced testing of in-flight Wi-Fi; both said they would ban voice calls because of passenger concerns. Other airlines testing or planning to launch in-flight Wi-Fi in various forms include Virgin America, JetBlue Airways, Deutsche Lufthansa and Qantas Airways.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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