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Cell Phones and Flying
August 31, 2009 at 9:21 am #79326
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Congress on path to ban phones on airliners
Monday, August 31, 2009
By Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Delayed and canceled flights. Extra charges for checked luggage, snacks and pillows. Taking off your shoes as you snake your way through the security gantlet.
Could anything possibly make air travel more annoying?
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio thinks so: listening to the cell phone conversations of other passengers.
Mr. DeFazio, D-Ore., has authored legislation, passed by the House, to ban cell phone use by passengers in flight. While such use currently is prohibited by Federal Communications Commission regulations, he wants to etch the ban in stone.
"With airline customer satisfaction at an all-time low, this is not the moment to consider making airplane travel even more torturous by allowing in-flight cell phone conversations," he said in an opinion article written for U.S. News & World Report.
"How about being stuck next to a person droning on about his latest breakup or medical procedure for the length of your flight? Sadly, this scenario is already a reality in Europe. With Internet access coming to planes in the United States, it is only a matter of time before carriers in the search for more revenue push to explore the option of in-flight cell phone use."
Mr. DeFazio's bill is called the Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace Act -- or HANG UP.
It has drawn support from the National Business Travel Association, the International Airline Passengers Association and the Association of Flight Attendants/Communications Workers of America.
Opposition is coming from the Inflight Passenger Communications Coalition, organized by telecommunications and satellite industry groups last year to fight the legislation.
"I'm not here to defend how airlines treat you and how much they charge for baggage and pillows," said Carl Biersack, the coalition's executive director. "I would not agree with the premise that having a cell phone on an airplane is an annoyance.
"The ambient noise in an airplane is the equivalent of a very busy traffic intersection. You cannot hear a conversation two rows in front or two rows in back of you. Is a cell phone conversation more obnoxious than a passenger having a conversation with the person in the next seat? The answer is no."
Mr. Biersack said allowing in-flight cell phone use would, for example, enable passengers on delayed flights to call ahead to those meeting them at the airport.
He said 20 airlines overseas have operated flights where cell phone use was permitted, with 3 million passengers, and that no complaints emerged.
Mr. DeFazio cited a 2007 survey by the International Airline Passengers Association in which 88 percent of the 3,000 frequent fliers surveyed worldwide said allowing cell phone use on planes would be "a source of great irritation."
"It's adding fuel to the fire," said Michael Cintron, director of consumer and travel industry affairs for IAPA, which represents 40,000 of "the most frequent" of frequent fliers. "If I'm already annoyed by X, Y and Z, let's not introduce anything else."
Caleb Tiller, spokesman for the National Business Travel Association, whose members purchase travel for large companies, said they support the use of Internet and text messaging while in flight "but they don't want to be able to use the phone."
The cacophony produced by cell phone conversations would make it difficult to rest, work or read.
"It would make it impossible to function," he said.
"Cell phone use in the cabin would introduce a new aviation security risk, compromise flight attendants' ability to maintain order in an emergency and increase cabin noise and tension among passengers," the 50,000-member flight attendants union said in a statement.
"This bill is not targeted toward obnoxiousness," union spokeswoman Corey Caldwell said. "It is targeted toward safety and security."
Flight attendants have more important duties than arbitrating disagreements among passengers about cell phone calls, she said.
Mr. DeFazio's measure was included in an FAA reauthorization bill passed by the House this year. The pending Senate version of the legislation does not contain such a ban, Mr. Biersack said. He's hoping the Senate version will prevail.
Not so for Mr. DeFazio.
"It is bad enough when the person sitting next to you on an overnight flight leaves the light on. Now imagine trying to sleep while he yaks on the phone. And on a plane, unlike on a bus or a train, a passenger cannot get up and move to get away from a person's cell phone conversation."
August 31, 2009 at 2:35 pm #79330
I hate sitting next to a person who needs more than one seat - let's create legislation against airborne obesity.
Frankly, I don't like sitting next to someone who obviously hasn't bathed in days, perhaps a law against body odor is appropriate.
What about those people who don't speak my language - leaving me out of their conversations for the whole flight - no more foreigners on transcontinental domestic flights (I'm not so unreasonable as to demand this on extra-continental flights). Call your senator!
Too much perfume - make a law
Loud clothing? We need another law!
Truth is - I'm really tired of legislating what ought to be civil behavior.
August 31, 2009 at 11:38 pm #79328
Even if this did go through, with many airlines providing wireless access on flights (how restricted is this access?), it could potentially be gotten around with Skype, instant messengers that allow audio, etc.
Too bad people just can't learn to be considerate of others around them.
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