Four out of five British airline passengers feel most safe if their pilot has a “standard Oxford” accent, according to a survey taken by sunshine.co.uk, which bills itself as “a low-cost travel agent.” The survey of 2,043 people also found that an even higher percentage (83%) felt safer with a male pilot than a female pilot.
An Edinburgh accent was second-most reassuring to those surveyed at 72%, followed closely by one from Wales. However, a Brummie twang from Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city, was found to not be reassuring to more than three-quarters of respondents.
Sunshine.co.uk also surveyed 53 pilots, and more than half admitted using their “telephone voice” when addressing passengers. The co-founder of Sunshine.co.uk, Chris Brown, said the survey was inspired by a customer’s email and that the preference for the Oxford accent wasn’t surprising, “it’s a given that the ‘BBC accent’ is the most widely accepted. I think the passengers obviously prefer it when they can’t really detect an accent in their pilot’s voice, but it was good to see that some were happy to hear a voice with a bit of character such as a Welsh or Scottish twang.”
I think it would be fascinating to see similar surveys taken of airline passengers in other countries, particularly in the U.S. Is the British survey just an example of classism and sexism? When intoning “This is your captain speaking,” do American pilots try to soften their Southern drawls? Would Americans trust a pilot with a smart-sounding British accent more than an American accent?
[image credit: Birmingham Mail]