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
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.
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.
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.
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.