It’s been almost a year since the FAA officially said it was okay to use electronic devices from gate to gate on flights in the United States.
Late last year, the FCC proposed overturning the ban on in-flight cell phone calls. At the time, I was strongly opposed to allowing phone calls on planes.
And, I think I’ve changed my mind. I’m trying to reconcile my philosophical view of the industry and my own personal desire to want to call my kids and say good night when I’m on a plane. I have yet to go one day away from my kids without calling to say good night. So, I don’t want the government to take away that ability.
This issue has arisen again because of the recent announcement that the Department of Transportation is wading into the process to try and ban phone calls on the grounds that they have a duty to provide “safe and adequate” transportation for people.
The FCC’s argument? There’s no technical reason to ban cellphone calls.
The DOT’s argument? We don’t trust people not to be smart about cellphone calls in the air.
Philosophically, while I don’t think flight attendants will do a good job enforcing proper etiquette as it relates to phone calls on planes, they should. It’s really not too much to ask that they keep the general peace on board, though I’m sure many would disagree.
I don’t want to fly an airline that doesn’t police proper etiquette for phone calls. I do want the ability personally to make an important phone call if I need to. And, that’s what I told a reporter who asked me about it earlier this week:
“I think there’s a fine line between the government legally allowing people to talk on the phone and the airlines doing the same,” said MilePoint cofounder Edward Pizzarello, who blogs about travel at Pizza in Motion.
“I really don’t see why the government should ban calls completely, because I believe there could be good reasons to allow calls in certain circumstances,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
“As a business traveler with kids, I’d welcome the opportunity to say a quick ‘good night!’ to my kids when traveling,” he added. “I enjoy those small moments when I’m away; hence the reason I don’t want the government to take that choice out of my hands.”
At the same time, “I’m not sure there’s a strong enough economic reason for airlines to allow phone calls,” Pizzarello acknowledged. “I do think phone calls have the ability to cause stress amongst passengers, especially given that planes are flying with a lot less empty seats and legroom than they used to.”
Still, the same could be said for a passenger watching a movie without headphones, which is nothing if not a common phenomenon, he pointed out.
“Despite the fact that some folks say flight attendants have enough to worry about, I think they’re well-equipped to tell a passenger to talk more quietly just like they might ask them to turn down the volume on their movie,” he added.
Bottom line: “There are definitely reasons to ban phone calls on airplanes,” Pizzarello asserted, “but they’re not necessarily good ones, especially when such things can be managed by the airlines and their employees.
“Some airlines might want to allow it — like Southwest gives free checked bags,” he concluded. “Others might want to advertise that they’re a quiet airline because they don’t allow calls.”
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