With the FAA’s recent decision to approve the use of electronic devices beyond airport gates and tarmacs, the vitriol and outrage against people talking on their mobile devices on planes is deafening. Let me go on record as not being in favor of mobile phone usage on planes – at all. But I am also aware that an old dog like me has to learn new tricks. Do people really envision a future where mobile phone usage on planes would be possible but forbidden? I guess the answer for many people is yes and that’s unrealistic and, well, wrong.
The FAA has noted that it would have the ability to monitor individual cell phone usage within the network. And while a policy is not yet in place there has been discussion that abusers of mobile phone talk would be shut down on an individual basis. Even if that is a little scary to me (I am not surprised since of course the NSA knows everything anyway apparently), that on/off switch is the safety net to protect against the inevitable idiot that will get on the phone in New York and talk non-stop to Los Angeles. Maybe you will be allowed 15 minutes once, or twice in a five hour flight. Whatever the protocol will end up being the foundation has to be that people will not be able to talk for any undue length of time.
I’ve been a daily commuter to New York City now for almost a year and have been riding trains on a regular basis to New York for an hour plus ride for many years. People talk on the phone and sometimes they are loud and obnoxious. A little personal anecdote from a few years ago:
I was on the train and a woman was talking when I boarded. She continued to make call after call about her trip to Detroit, the kids coming to visit and another business trip to Los Angeles. After about 20 minutes of this I could not take it anymore and tapped her on the shoulder (she was sitting behind me) and said, “Excuse me, Diane is it?” The people around me went Uh-oh collectively and became VERY interested. Diane had a shocked look on her face. I went on, “I’m sure the details of your trip to Detroit and Los Angeles are vitally important but on behalf of my fellow passengers it would be great if you could make your calls from the vestibule by the doors.” Her mouth dropped open a bit and she said nothing. Then after a minute or so without moving she got back on the phone. Like I noted, there will always be idiots.
Epilogue: Later that same day and this really happened, I was in an elevator somewhere in Manhattan and a guy gets on, looks at me and says – ‘Hey it’s you!! You’re the guy on the train. I’m really glad you said something to that woman and if she said anything I was going to jump in with you.’ A lot of help he was!
There are good reasons to allow some use of voice calls on airplanes. Emergencies can and do happen and a phone call is the best way. But in this day and age of texting and emails most of the communication to the outside world on a plane should not require voice calls – just as they don’t on any kind of public transportation.
I understand that none of us wish to be seated next to chatty Cathy but to unilaterally ban phone calls on planes because people are afraid of what might happen is just a bad idea and a bad policy. It’s going to happen and I can almost guarantee that.
Do you agree that like it or not phone calls on planes are inevitable – at least to some degree?