Skip to main content

Phone calls on planes? Please, no!

By Benét J. Wilson
updated 6:23 PM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
If you can get a 300-ton hunk of iron and aluminum into the sky, surely you can figure out a way for us to use our phones too?
If you can get a 300-ton hunk of iron and aluminum into the sky, surely you can figure out a way for us to use our phones too?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FCC is considering rules to allow the use of cell phone during flights
  • Benet Wilson: Letting passengers talk nonstop would be like being stuck in hell
  • She says the airplane is one of the few places where one can have some quiet
  • Wilson: There's no need to ruin anyone's flight with endless cellphone chatter

Editor's note: Benét J. Wilson is an aviation and travel journalist. She blogs at AviationQueen.com and has worked for two airlines and an aircraft engine manufacturer.

(CNN) -- As a long-time aviation journalist and regular traveler, I've been following the debate on whether the use of cell phones and other wireless devices should be allowed on airplanes.

And now that the Federal Communications Commission has said it will weigh in on the matter, let me add my voice to the growing chorus of those who are firmly opposed to the idea.

Letting passengers talk nonstop during flights would be like being stuck in hell.

Benét J. Wilson
Benét J. Wilson

Let me explain. I'm a working mother who is a student pilot and active in several professional and church activities. The airplane is one of the few places on (or over the) earth where I can sit quietly and not worry about answering or making phone calls.

In-flight calls: To talk or not to talk?

Yes, I have used airline WiFi to sneak in some work or surf the Internet, but mostly I put on my noise-canceling headphones and relax as much as one can on a commercial coach flight.

But all that peace would be ruined if cell phones were allowed to be used on planes. Could you imagine the cacophony of chatter you would hear on a Baltimore-to-Chicago flight? I can, because I've heard it already.

I used to take the Amtrak Acela train between Baltimore and New York City pretty regularly. On those rare occasions when I couldn't get a seat in the Quiet Car, it was sheer hell, even with headphones. I heard privileged conversations that would get lawyers fired. I listened to talk that wasn't fit for children under 17. I was forced to eavesdrop on people discussing personal, private matters -- all done in normal tones. And people didn't hesitate in trying to have their loud conversations even in the Quiet Car.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

Why can't you use your phone on a plane?
Cell phones take flight

So sit back, close your eyes, and imagine hearing all those conversations trapped in a high-speed metal tube flying between Washington and San Francisco, or New York to Paris. How many hours is that? Do you really want to hear the chatter of people sitting right next to you or 15 feet away? Even if the talks are muffled through your noise-canceling headphones, that doesn't make it any better. What if you just want to sleep through the flight? Or take a respite from the always-on connected life you have on the ground?

Travelers already get a sense of what this sounds like when a plane lands. You hear the chirps and beeps of phones turning on and snippets of conversation starting before the aircraft wheels have even touched the ground.

"YES, MOM, WE JUST LANDED." "I'LL MEET YOU AT BAGGAGE CLAIM 12. NO CLAIM 12! I'M HERE! WHERE'S THE PARTY?"

If I still haven't convinced you, then consider the flight crews who will be forced to referee any cell phone disputes. Despite what travelers may think, flight attendants are not there to help you with your bags or serve you drinks. They are actually there to ensure your safety on your flight. Safety could be compromised if flight attendants are too busy refereeing -- or not -- people who are fighting about loud conversations all around them.

Passengers are already on edge these days as civility in travel seems to have diminished greatly. Allowing the use of cell phones on flights will push us all closer to the cliff of our sanity.

So here's hoping the airlines and related aviation groups fire up their public relations machines to squash this idea and instead, urge the FCC to continue the inflight cell phone ban.

And travelers -- enjoy the down time. Listen to a podcast. Enjoy some music. Watch an in-flight movie. Play a game. The calls will be waiting for you when you land.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Benét J. Wilson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT