Monday, November 25, 2013


The next attack on a polite society is about to come at 30,000 feet as the Federal Communications Commission considers lifting its ban on in-flight cell phone calls by passengers.  Apparently, there are so many "important" phone calls being missed by travelers that we need to allow everyone access to their cellular system every minute of their lives.

The airlines can no longer use the "threat to the safety of the plane" excuse for making everyone keep their phones off during flight--as studies have shown having cellular devices on don't threaten the electronics on-board the plane.  But perhaps they could still shut this down by arguing the noise generated by 200-people all trying to have phone conversations at the same time would make it impossible for the flight attendants to pass along important information.

I realize that cell phones are an omnipresent feature of our modern society--and that the rules of common courtesy have been abandoned when it comes to talking to someone on the phone while in the presence of others--often seated right next to you.  But in most other situations, if you are put off by the callmaker or calltaker, you can move somewhere else to avoid having to listen to half a conversation that usually isn't worth the 18-cents a minute to make it on a cellular system.  On a plane, you don't have that luxury.  And given that airlines continue to shrink their seats in all classes--the phone would be as close to your ear as it would be to the caller's.

And here is how every phone conversation in flight is going to go: "Hey man, what's up?...I can barely make out what you are saying, I'm on the plane right now....yeah, the connections not real good....what? The dog is pooping barley?......oh, I didn't think that's what you said....well we won't be landing for another two and a half hours, so there's not a whole lot I can do about it right now.....hello?....hello?.....Oh, I thought I lost you there.....yeah, they allow you to call from the planes what are you having for dinner?, they don't feed you on the flights anymore.....who'd want to eat it anyway.....Ha ha ha!.....What?...I can't make out what you are saying....why don't I just call you after we land?"

And because an airplane cabin isn't exactly the most quiet setting, the above conversation will take place at a level just below a yell.  Then mulitply that by about 200 and you can see what the average flight will be like in the future.  You need only consider that in-flight calling has been allowed for decades--but the exorbitant cost of using the air phones meant only important calls were made.

My biggest fear is that the airlines will not oppose the lifting of the cellphone ban--but will instead use it to generate even more revenue.  This would be the perfect opportunity to charge an extra $20 or $25 per passenger to sit in the "Cellular Use Aproved" section of the plane--while charging those of us who would prefer to not hear what the guy next to us did on his trip yesterday an extra $20 or $25 to sit in the "Non-cellular Section".

As I told my wife the other day, my Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones could become even more valuable than their $200 price tag.

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