Four weeks ago the FAA decided it was okay, after all, to use most electronics from gate to gate. I could have told them this years ago since I covertly read on my Nook from gate to gate and all of my flights arrived at their destination.
This week, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) released that they are considering allowing cell phone use in-flight.
That is, in full cell phone mode.
Where you can make and receive calls.
For your entire 2 (or 10) hour flight.
This same proposal came up in 2004 and was quickly dismissed because the FCC claimed it had insufficient technical information about the potential interference between on-ground and in-air wireless devices.
Fast forward to 2012 when the FAA requested feedback from non-U.S. civil aviation authorities regarding the use of in-flight cell phones. The general consensus was that:
“[n]one of the civil aviation authorities reported any cases of air rage or flight attendant interference related to passengers using cell phones on aircraft equipped with on-board cellular telephone base stations. Some passengers complained about the cost of the cell phone service and when the cell phone service was inoperative or interrupted in flight.”
“For aircraft with on-board cellular telephone base stations, the civil aviation authorities had no confirmed reports of cell phones affecting flight safety…[and] that the cell phones and base stations can operate with no interference to systems required for safe aircraft operation.”
So, with “safety” no longer a major concern, the FCC wants to level the playing field and give air passengers the same access that they could get on trains and buses.
Unlike trains and buses, however, I can’t choose to sit in the quiet car or cell-phone free zone on an airplane. Or could the airlines potentially use this as an opportunity to create a new premium “Quiet Zone” seating section?
Some U.S. flight attendants worry that in-flight cell phone use may distract passengers in the event of an emergency, although the FAA’s study seems to indicate the opposite.
It’s not clear to me at this moment which faction is driving this: the consumer (i.e. YOU) or the communication industry because it could potentially open a new revenue stream (I can draw my own conclusions).
The public remains split on the decision (if approved). Some welcome the convenience to talk and text freely at 35,000 feet; others don’t look forward to sitting next to a yappy seatmate.
Personally, I don’t want to use my cell phone in flight. Then again, I don’t use my cell phone much for talking. I checked my cell phone usage for last month: I used 162 minutes (2.7 hours) and sent nearly 300 texts. With most new aircraft being outfitted for wireless (and older ones being retro-fitted), I can just as easily send a quiet email or iMessage if I really need to get a hold of someone.
So what do you think?
Should airlines offer in-flight cell service?