Airlines have seen almost no increase in the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops among passengers since the Federal Aviation Administration ruled in October that they are now allowed to do so during takeoff and landing, a recent study found.
Over a four month period observed by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development this year, 35.9% of passengers used mobile devices at any point during the flight, USA Today reported. In last year’s study, while flight attendants still patrolled the aisles for devices that hadn't been shut off, 35.3% of passengers used devices during flight.
Such a negligible increase is a bit surprising given that passengers no longer need to worry about whether they’ll have to turn off their devices before takeoff or landing. But these patterns were observed just months after the FAA made the announcement. People are likely either just stuck in their ways or unaware of the rule change.
The former is considered a major reason for the slow growth in mobile device use on airplanes. Chaddick Institute director Joseph Schwieterman said many people may not be interested in using their mobile devices in-flight, and are simply excited for an opportunity to "use the time to sleep and chill out," according to the USA Today report. On certain occasions, it is comforting to know that no one can bother you for a few hours.
Another contributing factor is the stipulation to the FAA’s rule that still bans the use of smartphones for making phone calls or send text messages, the report noted. It seems a bit ironic that passengers are still not allowed to use their phones for their phone functions, of which they've been capable for decades, but can use them for music and video streaming as much as they want.
That may change soon, however. The FAA recently received public comment on a proposal to lift its ban on in-flight cellphone communications service, which has been in place since 1991. So, even more freedom may soon be coming to the airline passengers.
Eventually, as more people become aware of this freedom and new services emerge encouraging people to use their phones while in-flight, we’ll see a significant increase in mobile device use on airplanes, pitting those of us looking to read a magazine or get some sleep against those having loud phone conversations across the aisle.