As airlines begin to implement new FAA rules for gadget use during flights, several outlets have reported that we may soon be allowed to make cellular calls, too. Much like the ban that forced fliers to turn off electronic devices during takeoffs and landings, the FCC’s ban on in-flight cell phone calls stems from the belief that phones could interfere with important flight equipment. In stating that cellular phone calls could be allowed without issue, the FCC is potentially reading itself to walk that rule back.
Unfortunately, the FCC will likely take an “advisory position” only, leaving it up to the airlines to decide if these calls are allowed, and some may not give fliers the green light. Delta Airlines, for instance, has already stated that even if the FCC changes its rules, Delta’s policy will stay intact. Here’s a statement Delta gave to the Los Angeles Times:
“Delta has years of customer feedback on the impact on the customer experience and voice communications and the overwhelming sentiment is to continue with a policy that would not allow voice communications while in flight.”
The thinking at Delta is that calls would be disruptive to the flying experience. But these rules don’t really exist for other modes of transportation. You can make and receive calls on a bus. You can make and receive calls on a train. I’ve experienced both and survived, thanks to a set of headphones and music or a movie. I’ve also made it through two people sitting side by side, having a conversation. Oh, and the occasional passenger that has insisted on having a conversation, even though I wasn’t really up for it. Those last two, by the way, aren’t banned by airlines.
I know it isn’t pleasant to listen to someone else’s conversation, and perhaps the priciness of airline tickets makes people feel more entitled, but here’s the truth: silence in any public place just isn’t realistic. There will always be that one person who makes your time in a public setting less than great, but there are many others who are respectful of those around them. Cell phone use on a plane is one of those things that we should self-police, just like any other public activity.
I’m personally not a fan of doing away with the whole thing just because a couple of people will be obnoxious. Most won’t be. Let’s leave the option for those who really need it. Let society put pressure on those who abuse the privilege.