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Survey: Public divided on in-flight cell use

The friendly skies are not so affable when it comes to using cell phones on commercial airliners. A Department of Transportation survey finds nearly half of U.S. residents oppose in-flight cell phone use, but nearly half of the younger generation support it.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The friendly skies are not so affable when it comes to using cell phones on commercial airliners.

Nearly half of U.S. residents say they would oppose allowing cell phone use aboard flights even if there were no issues with the phones interfering with aircraft communications systems, a Department of Transportation survey finds. About four out of 10 residents said cell phone use should definitely or probably be permitted.

But, as any parent of a teenager could have predicted, there is a cell phone generation gap. Among residents aged 65 and older, about 60 percent oppose cell phone use in flight, while less than a third support it.

For people aged 18 to 34, nearly half support cell phone use in flight, while a little over a third oppose it, the survey found.

The opinions on in-flight cell phone use were part of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' annual household survey, which questioned 979 residents in November 2007 and 1,063 residents in November 2006. The survey has a plus or minus error rate of about 3 percent.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission currently ban passengers from making cell phone calls in-flight. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last week approved a bill to make the ban permanent.

The committee's action followed moves by the European Union to let airline passengers talk on their cell phones during flight. Some U.S. airlines are experimenting with in-flight Internet access.

Lawmakers said they worry that if the ban is lifted, fights will erupt between passengers who talk loudly on the phones and others who find the callers obnoxious. Some lawmakers also said they fear domestic airlines might try to get the cell phone ban lifted so they can charge passengers extra to sit in no-phone sections.