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 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT