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Emiratis fine with in-flight mobile calls

While most people asked in a survey opposed the use of mobile phones on aircraft, those in the UAE were more reluctant to be parted from their handsets.

ABU DHABI // While most people asked in a survey opposed the use of mobile phones on aircraft, those in the UAE were more reluctant to be parted from their handsets. In the survey of 13 countries, 77 per cent of respondents opposed the use of mobile phones during commercial flights. But among UAE residents questioned, the figure was 47 per cent. Many airlines prohibit the use of electronic devices, such as mobiles, because of fears they might interfere with flight systems.

Many passengers also say they do not want to listen to other people's telephone conversations while travelling. But in a country where, according to Etisalat, there are more mobile phones than people, the naysayers are in a minority. George Christodoulides, the Gulf managing director of market research group Synovate, said the findings reflected the local prevalence, and apparent tolerance, of mobiles in public places.

"Mobile phones are very important in this country," he said. "If you see people walking around in the malls, they all have their head-pieces next to their ear so they can walk and talk, whereas in western or European countries, a mobile phone is sometimes seen as something of an intrusion." "It seems to me that the culture of the country is such that it won't bother a lot of people. "Maybe it could bother tourists, but nobody here really minds when somebody is having a conversation right next to them. The majority of people in Dubai would probably just pick up their own headset and start their own conversation."

Taiwan was the most reluctant to allow mobile calls on planes, with 95 per cent of respondents wanting to keep them switched off. Hong Kong and Thailand followed, both at 91 per cent. Since March, Emirates Airline passengers have been free to send text messages and make calls at cruising altitude on some flights, thanks to new technology installed on 10 planes. The EU has also been planning to allow mobile phones to be used on flights.

The Synovate survey was conducted in July and polled 10,806 people, 623 of whom were UAE residents. People from Britain, the US, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany and Hong Kong also participated. Among other findings about UAE air travel habits, 11 per cent of people listed the in-flight meal as one of their favourite things about flying. Only Filipinos had similar tastes, with most nationalities turning their noses up at the food.

"The meals on [UAE airlines] are particularly nice," Mr Christodoulides added. "Emirates' economy-class meals, for instance, might be better than some of the business-class meals on other airlines." mkwong@thenational.ae

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