If you’ve done any airline travel lately you’ve noticed a big change. Recently the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has relaxed its standards and now allows electronic devices to stay on during taxi and take off. Previously all electronic devices has to be completely powered down in the off position. It was thought that the wifi and cellular signals might interfere with the planes navigational equipment (although some believe it was designed to remove the distraction from passengers who otherwise would be more aware of their surroundings and watchful of potential terrorist threats during the most critical times of the flight). Whatever the reason was, it is no more. The FCC has decided (what every passenger could have told them) that as long as the device is set to “Airplane mode” it can stay on.
Airplane mode disables the wifi and cellular signals so nothing can interfere with the safety of the flight. This is great news for all those addicted to Angry Birds or Beyoncé. Passengers can now play games, work on iPad, grove to some airy tunes or start their personal video player early. In my opinion it all good…and bad!
Its good because I like to listen to my audio books as I relax in the seat, or get my daily bible reading in, or work on document, or take notes on my Notability app. It’s bad, however, because of what it could lead to…phone calls.
In the inevitable “Next Step Syndrome”, the FCC said it will soon propose allowing passengers to use their cellphones on airplanes, setting up a debate that will pit the technically possible against the socially tolerable. While cellphone use would still be restricted during takeoff and landing, the proposal would lift an FCC ban on airborne calls and cellular-data use by passengers once a flight reaches 10,000 feet.I consider this to be a bad idea, no one wants to be stuck listening to a stranger’s phone call on a five-hour flight, or listen to them share the details of their day with their favourite auntie. Very unfriendly to the seat mate that wants to enjoy an inflight power nap.
“It’s the social stigma of people having loud public conversations in a public space,” said Steve Nolan, a Gogo Inflight Internet spokesman. The technology to allow for airborne calls does exist, but the patience of passengers and airline employees might not.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the nation’s largest flight attendant union, said it opposes the lifting of the in-flight cellphone ban. “There are far too many scenarios where in-flight cellphone use would have very negative effects on safety and security,” said union spokeswoman Corey Caldwell. “We don’t want attendants having to vie for passengers’ attention during emergency situations.”
Some airline have said they welcome the change and will begin studies on how to make the cabin comfortable for those who want cell service and for those who like peace and quiet. Southwest Airlines, Delta and Virgin America said Thursday that in-flight phone calls are virtually off the table. “Years of customer feedback” show that “the overwhelming sentiment is to continue with a policy that would not allow voice communications while in flight,” Delta said.
We can only hope those sentiments will prevail.