HALF of air passengers leave phones on ... yet STILL no DEATH PLUNGE

Hello? Hello? Damn, really bad signal here 10km above the Atlantic

Almost half of UK flyers admit not bothering to switch their phones to flight mode (or off) while in the air, despite the dire warnings. While most just forget, the rest think they know better.

The numbers come from holiday booking outfit sunshine.co.uk, who asked almost 2,000 UK flyers about their mobile phone use and found that most of them think they know more about airline safety than the cabin crew advising them, and in many cases they'd be right.

Seventy-eight per cent of those questioned said they turn their phone back on before disembarking the plane, something so commonplace that British Airways now lets customers reconnect while their plane taxis to the gate.

Fifty-six per cent don't bother turning off their phone during takeoff and landing, which all airlines require until the plane hits 3,000 metres, and 49 per cent admit not bothering with airline mode – which shuts down all the handset radios to avoid any risk of interference.

On a brief foray into Virgin Upper Class, your correspondent was delighted to find that Bluetooth was permitted in the pricier side of the curtain, so flight mode would have no place in the hallowed space of on-demand dining and in-flight massage*.

Despite all the warnings, and impracticality of connecting to a base station from 10km up, six per cent of respondents admit trying to make a call and almost 10 per cent cop to sending a text message, while 17 per cent were looking for some internet connectivity on their handsets.

Forty-four per cent of those questioned said they didn't believe the phone would interfere with the plane's instruments, but — perhaps more worryingly — 27 per cent said they couldn't cope without a switched-on phone and nine per cent said they couldn't turn off their phone as being uncontactable was unacceptable (we're assuming they weren't the brightest in the sample).

There's much debate about whether phones really can interfere with instrumentation, with the general feeling that the risk isn't worth taking and that as they generally won't work anyway it's not a big deal to ask flyers to turn them off. Some planes do have in-cabin coverage, but that only gets switched on above 10km to avoid interfering with ground networks.

Thousands of phones are left switched on in flight every day, and deplete their batteries sending out desperate signals to base stations which are too far away and looking in the wrong direction, but planes stubbornly refuse to fall from the sky — for the moment at least. ®

*Readers will note that Virgin removed the massage parlours from its aeroplanes in 2008, which shows how often your correspondent gets to fly at the front of the plane.

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