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Survey finds majority of Americans want free IFC

The majority of US passengers would use free Wi-Fi (76.2%) and cellular calls (55.5%) and nearly half (44.7%) would use free text messaging services if provided on a flight, according to a new survey by Allianz Global Assistance.

Almost half of respondents (40%) admitted they don’t always put their phone on airplane mode and almost 14% of people have secretly sent a text message or call during a flight.

The main reasons respondents reported wanting to have free in-flight text messaging and cellular calls was to use in the case of an emergency (35% text messaging and 34% cellular calls) and to stay connected with friends and family (38.6% texts, 31.6% calls). Additional responses included having the ability to co-ordinate airport pick-up (14.7% text and 15.4% calls) and connection to work (11.7% text and 10.4% calls).

The biggest reason that respondents were not interested in text messaging and calls in-flight relates to fellow passengers’ usage. Some 27.7% of respondents reported that other passengers usage made them least interested in free text messaging services in flight. When it came to calls, 30.9% of respondents were least interested due to the noise level and 20.3% because of fellow passengers’ usage.

Additional factors making flyers unsure of connectivity included safety concerns regarding in-flight usage (23.9% text messaging and 15.2% cellular calls), being connected to work (19.9% text messaging and 11.6% calls), safety concerns regarding terrorism (19.6% text and 15.7% calls) and being connected to family and friends (8.8% text and 6.2% calls).

Of the in-flight capability options, free Wi-Fi was preferred over texting and cellular calls, however nearly half of respondents (40%) reported feeling more obligated to work when they have Wi-Fi. The survey found that the most important options for connectivity was the ability to use social media (22.4%) and streaming services (22.1%), suggesting that while travellers are interested in staying ‘on’ in flight, they prefer using their devices for personal reasons rather than 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.

“Airlines have recognised 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% of Americans would consider paying extra for if airlines did allow phone calls.”

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