Having just returned from a cross-country flight, I’m happy to hear the U.S. Department of Transportation is leaning towards a policy that prohibits cell phone calls on airplanes. My recent direct flight had an unplanned 30-minute layover for refueling, and after just 3 minutes of hearing dozens of conversations at once, I was ready to drive the rest of the way home.
Although no formal edict has come from the DOT yet, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the agency is close to a decision and it’s looking like that decision will be against in-flight phone calling. Any such ruling wouldn’t likely be due for technical reasons; after all, you can access the internet on many flights, theoretically, there is already infrastructure in place to have Voice-over-IP conversations.
The issue is one of general noise and the fact that people might not want to be subjected to hours of one-sided conversations from their seat mates:
“Regulators are focused primarily on the disruptive effects of voice calls rather than texting or other data use, having last year loosened restrictions that now allow airline passengers to use electronic devices for these purposes from gate to gate.”
I remember when planes had in-flight phones with credit card readers so that you could make a call from the air. Times were different then as it wasn’t cheap to place those calls; they were more a luxury or used for emergencies. These days, cellular voice calls cost little to nothing so the price and availability aren’t barriers to usage.
I suppose we could all buy noise-canceling headphones for our flights if phone calls are allowed. If that happens, I’ll surely be driving on my next vacation, however.