“The FCC Absolutely Should Allow Cell Phone Use On Airplanes”

by Walter Olson on December 14, 2013

“Should we have a federal law against talking on the phone in restaurants? … If the flying public hates phone calls so much, airlines can be expected to prohibit them. The government does not need to get involved.” [Josh Barro, Business Insider; Ira Stoll]

{ 8 comments }

1 rxc 12.14.13 at 4:57 am

I would much prefer segregation of airline flights by frequency of flying. If you fly more than, say, 2 round-trips per year, you get to fly on airplanes that don’t have any children under 18, any grannies over 80, or any pregnant women. I can put up with the talkers – it is the crying babies and bad-tempered teenagers who I can’t stand.

2 marco73 12.14.13 at 9:43 am

Since the airlines are charging a premium for luggage, better seats, early boarding, etc, let the market figure it out. If people are willing to pay a premium to be able to use their phones in flight, then the airlines can segregate them into “cell phone” seats. Other travelers may be willing to pay a premium to sit in “cell free” seats. The market may even drive entire flights to be cell free, or cell everywhere.
I agree with rxc; I’d be willing to pay a premium to guarantee no crying babies, petulent teenagers, and smelly travelers.

3 Marty Murphy 12.14.13 at 11:32 am

I remember back in the late ’40s, after Pres. Truman desegregated the armed forces, black enlisted men objected to the practice of some white officers in the Army and Marine Corps carrying riding crops, known as ‘swagger sticks,’ as part of their uniform.

Although it was only a fashion carried over from the old time cavalry, it reminded many blacks (and perhaps some of the white officers?) of the whips carried by white slave owners in the South.

In response, the Department of Defense issued an order banning the practice. The Army complied directly, but the Marine commandant, who appreciated the sentiment, resented the implications of a direct proscription from above.

Instead, he issued a memo: “Any officer who feels the need to carry a swagger stick may continue to do so.”

Swagger sticks disappeared overnight.

Let the airlines decide what is acceptable behavior on their aircraft. Don’t ‘order’ correct behavior. Tell people what conduct you expect and let them figure it out.

4 Bumper 12.14.13 at 3:12 pm

Just in time for rxc and Marco73-

http://www.myfoxny.com/story/24217551/new-private-terminal-at-newark-airport-for-upscale-travelers

And this really isn’t about people using their phones during a flight, this is about a new “upcharge” for airlines to make money. I for one must vote in the negative given my predilection to less than the King’s English. However it would be nice to be able immediately “drop a dime” on nasty flight attendants and pilots who persist is flying through bumpy weather.

5 Hugo S. Cunningham 12.14.13 at 9:18 pm

I haven’t flown since 2001/9/11, so perhaps someone could update me: I understood that a key timely source of information about the 9/11 hijackings was passenger cell phone calls. Also, cell phone calls to UA93 passengers alerted them that their hijackers intended murder and there was nothing to lose by fighting them. Am I correct about the use of cell phones in 9/11? Has that wonderful anti-hijack resource since been disabled?

6 MattS 12.15.13 at 4:05 pm

Hugo,

It was never officially enabled.

Getting a cellphone signal in an aircraft at cruising altitude under normal circumstances is close to impossible, you are crossing cell boundaries too quickly for the system to keep up.

Using cell phones on aircraft was illegal well before 9/11 on the theory that the EM signals from the tiny transmitter in your cell phone could somehow interfere with the aircraft’s navigation equipment.

7 Amy Alkon 12.16.13 at 2:38 am

Absolutely right that this should be the airlines’ decision. And I say that as somebody who has just turned in her second book with a section on why public cell phone yammering is terribly rude.

8 wfjag 12.17.13 at 12:45 pm

I’d pretty much given up flying — shrinking seats and intimacy with strangers in adjoining seats, delays spent on hard plastic chairs in waiting room, some of the worst food imaginable at 5-star prices, getting stripped and groped and learning who is foot-hygiene challenged in the security check in line.

Now a reason to fly again. When cell phones are allowed, the opportunities for Cell Phone Crashing multiply: See
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=UUUQYeJ6D3qDlQkMboh-8-xw for some ideas.

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