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Can you annoy me now? Ban on airplane cell phone use may be lifted

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The use of cell phones on airplanes is currently banned. This is a boon to some - who wish not to eavesdrop on calls made by talkative passengers, to an annoyance to many. Some people have to make arrangements for being picked up after arriving their destination. Airlines are now considering lifting the ban, and with this possible policy change comes controversy.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting its longtime prohibition, saying it is time "to review our outdated and restrictive rules."

It's a conundrum. Everybody wants the ability to stay connected while traveling, but nobody wants to be trapped next to someone jabbering the entire time from New York to Las Vegas.

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"The only way I'd be in favor of this is if the FCC mandated that all those who want to use their cellphones must sit next to families with screaming children," one frequent flier says.

Airlines could go the way of trains and offer "quiet rows," - with an extra fee for seats. The question is: will they be more effective than the old smoking and non-smoking sections - or will passengers find exceptions for themselves?

A flight attendant union has come out against any change, saying a plane of talking passengers could lead to arguments and undermine safety.

Another thing: What's going to happen to the already limited bathrooms on the plane? "Are they going to become the telephone booths for those who want to talk on the phone in private?" one attendant asks.

Another frequent flier says lifting the ban would be "a mixed blessing.

"Having the ability to communicate with my office, my family and my friends, especially for making necessary plans for airport pickups and meetings on the day of arrival, is invaluable," he said. "Of course, the downside is with the inconsiderate flier who is oblivious to how loud he or she is talking. That is what will drive us crazy."

Many Middle East airlines and a few in Asia and Europe already allow voice calls on planes. Many U.S. airlines block providers such as Skype, in part because they fear it will eat up the limited bandwidth.

The cell phone industry has voiced its support on lifting the ban. Airlines already charge for Internet access, and it's not too much of a stretch to imagine them charging for phone use.

Allowing calls isn't so much a safety issue as one about what is socially acceptable. The decision may ultimately left up to the airlines to decide.

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