In-flight voice call stats revealed (oh my gawd)


Uh boy, few things are worse than having to eat your own words. However, after seeing AeroMobile’s stats on in-flight voice call usage, I may have to do just that (well, just a little).

For years, I’ve been promising readers of this blog that people don’t make a lot of voice calls in-flight. And, for years I’ve cited this “fact” as one of the many reasons why folks shouldn’t be scared of allowing the technology to be fitted to US aircraft.

But AeroMobile – whose mobile connectivity solution is in place on 60% of Emirates’ in-service fleet – has told me that over 11,000 voice calls were made/received to equipped Emirates aircraft in February 2010 alone!

The longest call made from an aircraft was 65min on a Dubai-Accra flight on 11 October 2009.

The highest number of calls made from an aircraft was 82 on a Bombay-Dubai flight on 20 September 2009.

And, are you ready for this? One of the top passengers (in terms of usage) generated on average over 2.5 hours of voice traffic on each of seven flights flown over the past 6 months!!!

You’ll excuse me if I make the following statement in my most contrived Valley Girl accent: “Like, oh my gawd!!!”

Just look at how AeroMobile traffic has climbed in the last 10 months!

AeroMobile stats 4.JPG

Now I know what you’re thinking. An uber-wealthy, “I don’t care about international roaming rates” kind of Emirates passenger cannot be compared to Joe Blow from Idaho.

Equally, however, as rates drop, we can’t assume that Joe won’t get really chatty with Flow on his flight to Boise.

Take a look at the regional trends for usage of AeroMobile’s voice and SMS services.

Regional Usage - AeroMobile.JPG

But let’s drill down. Here is an AeroMobile chart showing that Africa and Europe have higher usage (SMS and voice combined) than share of flights.

AeroMobile stats 2.JPG

Africa, for example, generates 17% of usage but only accounts for 11% of flights. Key routes in north Africa such as Tripoli, Casablanca, Cairo and Khartoum contribute to this.

The highest number of SMS messages sent to/from an aircraft was 477 on a Casablanca-Dubai flight on 13 February, according to AeroMobile.

Europe, meanwhile, generates 29% of usage but only accounts for 19% of flights. Key routes such as London Heathrow and Munich contribute to this

OK, so it turns out that Emirates passengers like to talk in-flight (and some like to talk a lot). But you should also see this next chart, which shows the majority of calls are made on long-haul flights. It might make you feel a little bit better (i.e. it stands to reason that we can expect more voice calls on transcons than domestic short-haul in the USA, if the service is ever permitted).

AeroMobile stats 3.JPGThankfully, I’ve still got loads of other reasons why I don’t think this technology should be banned on US aircraft. So I don’t have to dive into the humble pie as much as I need to take a slice (with real whipped cream, thank you).

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20 Responses to In-flight voice call stats revealed (oh my gawd)

  1. Wandering Aramean March 18, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Here’s a great reason these stats support your claims that there is no need to ban in-flight mobile use: No reports of air rage, despite the high usage levels.

    I actually think that’s more compelling than the claim that no one is going to use it anyways.

  2. Mary Kirby March 18, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    You’re absolutely, positively, without-a-shadow-of-doubt right!!!

  3. pundit March 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    Re your ref to uber-wealthy: what was AeroMobile’s answer to your deep and penetrating question requesting analysis of call-spend against fare paid? This might confirm any perception that deep pockets are a factor.
    It’s obviously good use of one’s time (if not that of fellow passengers) to call in the air when not working or otherwise generating income, but having bought his ticket many months in advance – it’s called cost-avoidance – Ebenezer likewise will wait until he next reaches a landline, if he didn’t call before boarding…
    AeroMobile’s software surely can provide the answer: I think we should be told.

  4. David Parker Brown March 18, 2010 at 2:14 pm #


    But I don’t want it :) . I like to sleep on flights and the majority of people are by themselves. If they have someone on the cell to talk to = no sleep for me.

    I still hold my ground I don’t want cells to be used on the plane. Although I should say that I really hate talking on the phone anyhow, and prefer text’s and emails!


  5. Gianfranco March 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    I agree with David ! No more rest in a plane…. Imagine an Emirate A380 with 550 people onboard, all of them stuck with their phone…

  6. Mike March 19, 2010 at 10:48 am #


    Something is not adding up. If you run the numbers (11,000 calls per month, 60% of their 127 aircraft equipped, 2 turns per day and 30 days per month) you get around 2 calls per flight.

    Sounds like they have 1% of their customers that love it and 99% that don’t care.


  7. Mary Kirby March 19, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Pundit, I’m a journalist, working on a journalist’s wage, and even I’ve thrown down a few quid to a make a call in-flight (esp on a long-haul flight). Some things, like telling your 5-year old that you love her before bedtime, are simply worth the money.

  8. David March 20, 2010 at 4:06 am #

    Mike is right – and so were you. The numbers work out to average anywhere between 2 and 4 calls per flight – and you were right, not many people use the phone. And if one flight had 82 calls it just means that there were many with zero. However, low usage is just the reason why calls should be allowed!David Parker Brown has nothing to worry about if a few hundred passengers, during a 12 hour flight will make 2, or 4, or even 40 calls -he will never notice!

  9. Prof. H. Higgins March 20, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    Runway Girl writes:
    You’ll excuse me if I make the following statement in my most contrived Valley Girl accent: “Like, oh my gawd!!!”

    . . . . by way of Essex !

  10. Pundit March 20, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    So – what’s the answer then, RG? Can AeroMobile tell us whether in general terms there’s a correlation (analyzed via seat number) between higher call spend and higher fare spend?

  11. Mary Kirby March 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    If el cheapo passengers flying on el cheapo tickets won’t make a call, then why is Ryanair fitting its entire fleet with OnAir mobile connectivity? Indeed, the photo above is of a passenger on a Ryanair flight. You know Ryanair, of course, the carrier that charges a full 9 pounds for a ticket.

  12. ScepticOne March 23, 2010 at 3:26 am #

    Ryanair offer a great service for the price you pay, but if you’ve paid $9 for a 1 hour flight, I think it’s unlikely you’re going to pay $3-$4 per minute to make a phone call.

    Which leads me to believe Ryanair are fitting it because they’re being paid to fit it. Being a long-time follower of Ryanair, I’d be very surprised if Mr. O’Leary was willing to wager Ryanair’s own cash on the uptake of the service. It’s far more likely that OnAir are paying for all the equipment and paying the cost of the install, and then sharing the revenue (and by sharing I mean Mr. O’Leary is taking most of it).

  13. ScepticOne March 23, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    Following on from Mike’s analysis; if the capital cost of the system is $500,000 per aircraft then they’d need to be making at least $35 per flight (assuming they’re doing 700 flights per year), because if you put $500,000 in the bank you’d make $25,000 per year for doing nothing.

  14. mike hynes March 24, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    Just curious about the math – 11,000 calls in Feb is approximately 400 calls per day. I don’t know how many daily flights are flown by Emirates but it would seem the average would be less than one or two calls per flight. Given the high useage by a few individuals the reality becomes many flights with no calls. So it would seem inflight phone useage doesn’t appear to be an overwhelming need by the masses.

  15. NextSeat March 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Wealthy or not, it comes down to a cultural issue. Most people in Europe and the Middle-East are (in general) more likely to use the service and/or not be offended by other passengers’ use of cell phonecalls. And agree with ScepticOne that RyanAir has definitely not bought this equipment…they have made a revenues-share agreement to see if they could make money out of it and will remove it as soon as they see how few passengers use it. Boggle my mind that OnAir agreed to the installs (which I read was delayed from the original schedule)

  16. Rita April 7, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    Cell phones on planes are just flat out wrong i wouldn’t want to be stuck sitting next to anyone talking on there phone.

  17. trutone April 14, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    Always a pleasure reading a post of yours.

  18. Search Engine Submission August 7, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    Wonderful to read!

  19. Ariana Paseur September 26, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    We have been doing research on recording mobile phone calls that come into my mobile phone and I live in a one party concent state. I’ve tried those recorders that connect to your phone without success. Thank you for your infomative blog, it was very helpful

  20. TheePieMan April 8, 2013 at 3:57 am #

    “So I don’t have to dive into the humble pie as much as I need to take a slice (with real whipped cream, thank you).”
    Allow me to suggest a slice of Key Lime Pie with Whipped Cream. Much tastier! ;o)