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Hopefully, by now many of you who traveled by air for the Thanksgiving holiday are back home or on the way.
So, while that experience still is literally ringing in your ears — crying babies, appalling background music, roaring engines — think about how bad it could have been if you added one more aural assault.
Can you imagine if you’d had the 150 people crammed into your plane spending much of the flight talking on their cellphones?
The intertwining rumble of inane chatter and ego-driven bluster probably would cause me to seek refuge in the baggage hold, if not out on a wing.
Yet that’s just the prospect that is facing us, as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to take up the current ban on cellphone use during flights. The FCC is expected to consider the matter at its December meeting and could change the rule a few months later after public comment.
Apparently, concerns about any direct impact from cellphone signals on airplane operating systems or other electronics are fading. Still, observers say there are other safety worries along with the feeling that such calls would just be really annoying.
“When considering this kind of policy change, safety and security always need to be the top priority, and the final policy needs to be coherent and readily enforceable,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said.
“We should also carefully consider whether allowing open cellphone conversations during flights truly enhances the passenger experience. Personally, I have my doubts that the traveling public will wholeheartedly embrace this, but we should be abundantly clear on whether or not that’s true before this policy is allowed to proceed.”
The individuals who would have to put up with all the yapping, day in and day out, also have weighed in. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA recently said its membership overwhelmingly dislikes the proposal.
“AFA opposes any changes that would allow in-flight voice calls. Flight attendants … understand the importance of maintaining a calm cabin environment,” the group said in a press release.
“Any situation that is loud, divisive and possibly disruptive is not only unwelcome but also unsafe. Many polls and surveys conducted over the years find that a vast majority of the traveling public wants to keep the ban on voice calls in the aircraft cabin.”
Delta Air Lines already is on record as saying it won’t offer in-flight cellphone service, even if the FCC approves it, because the airline thinks most customers would be bothered by the policy.
JetBlue Airways, however, said it believes it’s time to reconsider the ban.
Some travel-market analysts are predicting that airlines might designate part of each cabin as a “quiet zone” and try to charge customers more to sit there.
As for me, I can’t figure out what could be so important that it couldn’t wait an hour or two for landing. I bet most of the calls would be something like, “Hey, I’m just sitting here looking out the window at 30,000 feet. How’s your day going?”
Our over-fascination with cellphones was perhaps best summed up by an attorney I heard speak a few years ago at a Leadership Tulsa event.
“Every evening now, we use these things to call our spouse and say, ‘I’m coming home,’ ” he said. “In the days before cellphones, what did we do? We went home.”
Air travel is unpleasant enough these days. The opportunity to go cell-free for an hour or two is one of the few perks. Please, FCC and airlines: Make the right call on this one.