Sunday, November 24, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

Just when you thought flying on US airlines couldn't get much worse add the cell phone into the mix. Cell phones being used at 35,000 feet may be a realty. This week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considered allowing cell phone usage on American flights by lifting a ban on talking on cell phones in flight. Airlines would make the call on whether or not to allow passengers to make calls from their seats during a flight.

Surprisingly Delta Airlines is the only major American airline that claims it will not allow passengers to chat on their cell phones even if the FCC opens the door for phone usage. The largest flight attendant union also opposes cell phone calls in the air due to the problems cell phones could create in the cabin. Passengers are already crowded into shrinking coach class seats, given a tiny package of peanuts for free or the option to buy an overpriced sandwich, paying for checked baggage, and paying extra fees to sit in certain seats.

What next? Will airlines establish a "quiet zone" and charge customers extra for sitting in the "no cell phone" section of the plane?

In the end this will be a business decision for the airlines. The FCC has already determined that in flight calls are safe and do not disrupt any mechanisms of the plane; the current ban on cell phones remains a courtesy to travelers. For the moment . . . as soon as the FCC officially lifts this ban numerous airlines will no doubt rush to allow in air cell service.

I actually like the current ban on cell phones and welcome a respite from people around me talking constantly on their phones. Wi-fi is already available on most US flights, so an immediate connection to those on the ground is possible. People already get angry and violent over crying babies and seat backs reclined all the way. A loud, chatty passenger on their cell phone for hours may open the door to more in flight mayhem by annoyed passengers. And you know that type of person I'm talking about! I'll just be sure to pack my iPod and earbuds.

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