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The majority of airlines require mobiles to be switched off during take-off and landing, and kept in “flight mode” while the aircraft is in the sky.
But the poll, by the website Sunshine.co.uk, revealed that 21 per cent of fliers do not follow these rules.
The most common misdemeanour perpetrated by passengers was turning their phone on immediately after landing, rather than when the aircraft doors have been opened, and failing to switch their device off during take-off.
Others admitted trying to access the internet, send text messages or make calls while airborne – something that isn’t possible unless the plane has been fitted with the correct technology.
The majority of those who owned up to flouting the rules – 86 per cent – said they did so due to “forgetfulness”, while the rest said they did not believe mobile phone use actually affected the plane.
“It seems many Britons chose to ignore what they should and shouldn’t do with their mobile phone during a flight, despite being told clearly by the airline staff,” said a spokesman for Sunshine.co.uk. “There’s still a lot of confusion surrounding what effect mobile phones can have on a plane, but previous incidents have been linked to phones and so airlines choose to be safe rather than sorry.”
In 2011, the International Air Transport Association called for passengers to stop ignoring mobile rules after a study revealed that over a six-year period, there were 75 separate incidents involving mobile phone use which caused concern in the cockpit. It said 26 of the incidents affected the aircraft’s flight controls, 17 affected navigation systems, 15 hindered communication systems, and 13 triggered electronic warnings.
Mobile phone use is permitted by a number of airlines, including Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, while last year Virgin Atlantic introduced an in-flight mobile service. Initial reviews were mixed, due to “patchy” reception and “very slow” data downloading.
In 2009 Ryanair launched a similar service on selected routes from Dublin, but scrapped it a year later.
And earlier this month British Airways relaxed restriction on the use of mobiles and gadgets, allowing passengers to check emails, make phone calls and texts, or switch on other gadgets, almost immediately after the aircraft has landed, rather than when the doors have opened.
A poll by the website Skyscanner, carried out immediately after Virgin introduced its in-flight mobile service, found that nine out of ten British travellers oppose phone use during a flight.