Allowing cell phones on planes is not the end of the world

by Charlie Leocha on December 13, 2013


Get a grip, America. Or, rather, get a grip, Congress and the media. From the sounds of things, allowing passengers to speak on cell phones aboard aircraft would be horrendous. Chatty Cathy would be let loose. Strong-arming salesmen would have a field day. Teenage lovers would coo and woo each other while flying across the country. I doubt it.

The USA is a free country. We do not need congressmen telling us when we can speak on the phone and when we can not. Nor do we need the Department of Transportation to chime in with a new rule.

In Europe, where cell phones use has been in place for some time, there is no hew and cry to ban the passengers talking on the phone. The European Union, that has created the most passenger-friendly rules in the aviation world, have not found any problems with passengers abusing the ability to speak on their cell phones.

Don’t take my word for this. An FAA study released last year found that in-flight calls ranged from 2 percent of all passengers in France and .3 passengers per flight in Brazil, with an average call length of a mere two minutes. The FAA study noted:

None of the civil aviation authorities reported any cases of air rage or flight attendant interference related to passengers using cell phones on aircraft equipped with on-board cellular telephone base stations.

David Bruner, Vice President of Global Communications Services for the Panasonic Avionics Corporation, the world’s leading supplier of in-flight entertainment and communications tools, released a statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came out with its findings.

Fears of loud chatter disrupting passengers during flights have proven to be unfounded overseas and reports of problems due to voice cellphone use have been virtually non-existent. We applaud the FCC for standing up for the American consumer and allowing this process to move forward and giving the airlines and passengers the ability to decide how this service will be used.

Today, airlines withhold ancillary fee data from passengers so that they cannot easily compare prices across airlines. The largest airline in the world is found by regulators to regularly lie to their customers about taxes and fees. Airlines have taken the Department of Transportation to court over a new rule mandating that they tell the whole truth when advertising airfares. Those are major problems that cost consumers millions of dollars every month. And, airlines are doing all they can to keep passengers from knowing their rights when traveling and purchasing tickets by doing only the minimum required by law.

The Office of Management and Budget has been holding up a passenger protection rulemaking dealing with price transparency and the ability of the IT industry to develop new and different ways to present airfares for more than six months. Congress is in the midst of passing a law that doubles 9/11 Security Fees and purloins them to balance the budget. And, our air traffic control system is mired with 1960′s technology.

However, with these major consumer and industry issues at stake, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, decides to introduce a law to ban the use of cell phones on planes. What’s next? A law to stop cellphone use on Amtrak? They found a solution — a quiet car. Without any input from Congress and no new law.

Let’s be glad that he is not the chairman of the restaurant manners committee on The Hill, otherwise there would be a law that banned the use of cellphones in restaurants. Think about it. We have all been to restaurants during the past few weeks. Have any of us been “forced to listen to the gossip?” Have any of us felt that, “It’s just common sense that we all keep our personal lives to ourselves and stay off the phone.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have had breakfast in Denny’s and at IHOP. I munch burgers at McDonald’s and Burger King. I dine regularly in upscale and midscale restaurants across the country. I can’t remember a time when I have been disturbed by any non-stop chatter on cell phones.

Guess what? There is no law. Normal people figure out ways to get along with each other.

Tony Wheeler, the FCC Chairman, had it right when he said the cell phone ban was “outdated and restrictive.” If there is no technological or safety reason to ban the use of cell phones, there is no other reason to ban them. Society will set its own rules, just as it does in restaurants across the country today.

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