Objective: The study examined the effects of passengers’ conversations on adjacent passengers’ annoyance, attention to in-flight announcements, and performance on following instructions, which could lead to passengers’ injuries. Background: Some airlines have provided services to enable in-flight cell-phone calls. However, passengers’ compliance with safety instructions is essential. Previous research demonstrated that cell-phone calls led to higher levels of distractions than face-to-face dialogues, and people were more annoyed with one-sided conversations, such as most cell-phone conversations. Method: Twenty-four participants took 30-minute simulated flights in a laboratory room. Three announcements, which instructed participants to fasten seatbelts, raise tray tables, and check seatbelts, were given while pre-recorded conversations, including cell-phone and face-to-face conversations, were being played. Participants’ annoyance with conversations and attention to instructions were collected with questionnaires. The performance regarding following instructions was measured by observing compliant behavior. Results: Participants were more annoyed with cell-phone conversations, but they had equivalent levels of attention and compliance. Response times were longer when they were overhearing face-to-face conversations. Conclusion: Cell-phone calls are not more distracting, and they may be safer sometimes than traditional face-to-face dialogues. From a passenger compliance standpoint, cell phones can be allowed and supported. However, the annoyance caused by cell-phone conversations needs to be taken into consideration.




We would like to thank Lindsay M. Carstens and Shawn Shirshekar for their help with recording in-flight announcements and conversations. We would also like to thank the FL Tech College of Aeronautics for providing aircraft seats.