Hold the phone: travellers say inflight calls not welcome

Hold the phone: travellers say inflight calls not welcome

As airlines ramp up inflight connectivity, and let passengers fire up their mobiles to make and take calls using a sky-high version of global roaming, passengers remain unconvinced over the prospect of phone calls at 30,000 feet.

According to an online survey conducted by business travel specialist Corporate Traveller, 88% of travellers give mobile phones the thumbs-down for voice calls, saying they should be used only for silent activities such as emailing, texting and web browsing.

"That outcome gives a pretty clear indication of how travellers involved in this online survey feel about the idea of calls being made onboard aircraft" said Corporate Traveller marketing manager Jerome Bamminger, who believes travellers fear voice calls will detract from the splendid isolation of flight.

But they may not have a choice, with more than 20 other airlines around the world already offering a satellite-based mobile service.

“Foreign airlines servicing parts of Europe and the Middle East have been allowing onboard voice calls for years" Bamminger says.

"And just this month we saw Emirates join Virgin Atlantic and Etihad, when it added in-flight mobile phone service to its fleet of A380 aircraft so passengers could make calls and text while in the air."

“As a business travel specialist we know that many of our clients who travel frequently for business are looking for some quiet time when they’re on a flight" Bamminger says.

"Generally business travellers are catching up on sleep or work or preparing for a meeting, so sitting next to someone talking on the phone for a long time could be disruptive."

“In saying that however, there would still be many executives that need to stay connected at all times, and it’s this kind of service and connectivity that could influence the purchasing decisions of corporate customers that like to have all their communication channels available 24/7.”

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • Peter Loh


    17 Oct, 2012 01:27 pm

    I think it comes down to common curtesy. If you really need to make/receive a call, it would be acceptable to do this in the onboard lounge / bar area. Just as you wouldn't talk on your phone in a business meeting or at a public library, you shouldn't do so in the business/first cabin. Excuse yourself, and head to a more appropriate area.

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  • mattdc


    17 Oct, 2012 01:48 pm

    I agree. Perhaps a designated part of the aircraft for taking calls? That way, if someone desperately couldn't wait to make a phone call, they could do so without irritating everyone else by screeching into their Blackberry at 30,000 ft! 

    Could be a win-win I think.

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  • Al Glidden


    17 Oct, 2012 03:47 pm

    I'd certainly agree that as a courtesy, passengers in business class should move to the lounge if there is one, ie like the QF A380s have. Of course, might not always work - you might be in a window seat, get a call and your seatmate is asleep so you can't get out. And there aren't many areas in economy where people could go.

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  • CL9


    17 Oct, 2012 03:29 pm

    You shouldn't be able to to take calls in economy either !!

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  • Nick20


    17 Oct, 2012 01:37 pm

    This has been a thing with satellite pones onboard in Business and First cabins for years - I have never seen one used

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  • benoco


    17 Oct, 2012 07:06 pm

    Keep it like smoking used to be. If it's going to be the new thing for flights, designate a "phoning" and "non-phoning" area. 

    The best place for people to sit, if they want to take phone calls mid-flight, is on the wing.

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  • wingtip


    18 Oct, 2012 10:07 am

    Unfortunately the majority of people using this service will be the same inconsiderate, loud mouthed, attention-seeking tools you come across every day big-noting themselves & trying to appear important. The polite, considerate people are in the minority. Anyone travelled on a bus or train recently?

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17 Jun, 2019 09:15 pm


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