from an expert in the field:
Darryl Jenkins has more than 30 years of experience in the aviation industry, and is an adviser and consultant to airlines and aviation companies.
AFTER REVIEWING the
report from the Federal
(FAA), which found that
mobile devices don’t interfere
with aircraft equipment, the
ban on in-flight mobile connectivity and usage was lifted by the Federal
Communications Commission, and passengers
were able to access communications applications
such as data and SMS text services just as they
would on the ground. Until now, that excluded the
ability to use voice services, but that has changed.
While it may seem like a bad idea to give passengers the ability to chat on a cross-country flight,
it’s important to consider the existing systems in
place. Outside the U.S., cellular usage aboard aircraft has been around for more than five years.
According to AeroMobile, a company that provides
in-flight wireless connectivity overseas, more than
80 percent of their users do not use voice at all.
Aviation authorities in Australia, Ireland, New
Zealand and Saudi Arabia reported that “there was
relatively low use of cellphone voice communication on airplanes equipped with on-board cellular
telephone base stations.”
The most obvious reason for lack of voice
usage is cost. The cost for using the service overseas
is $3 to $4 per minute, so most phone calls are
quick and direct as opposed to the long-winded
conversations that most passengers fear. In fact, the
FAA reports that foreign civil air authorities surveyed in a recent study reported no passenger “air
rage” or flight attendant interference related to passengers using cellphones on aircraft equipped with
on-board cellular telephone base stations. Chances
are, passengers were doing more texting or listen-ing to voice messages than actual talking.
The FAA has also eliminated safety as a factor
for prohibiting in-flight mobile usage. There is an
extremely stringent testing and certification regime
associated with installing and operating equipment
on board commercial aircraft. The FAA has certified the use of mobile devices with airborne access
systems as safe for use on board U.S.-manufactured
aircraft. The FAA’s European counterpart, the
European Aviation Safety Agency, has also certified
in-flight use of mobile devices with airborne access
systems as safe.
Despite all of this, the House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure recently
approved a bill to prohibit phone calls on all
domestic flights, putting the future of in-flight
mobile communication in the hands of government. I disagree with this move. It should be ultimately up to the airlines and the marketplace to
decide whether to make in-flight cellphone use a
part of airline passengers’ travel experience. C
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from an expert in the field:
WE HAVE ALL been there: stuck in line at the market or cramped on a train, forced into hearing a one-sided phone conversation by a fel- low citizen with little regard for using an “inside voice”
and a complete lack of situational awareness.
Research has shown that these “halfalogues,” where
the bystander hears only half the conversation, are
far more intrusive and annoying than dialogues.
Now imagine being on a plane, tens of thousands of
feet in the air, exposed to such partial conversations
Veda Shook, an Alaska Airlines flight attendant, is international president of
the Association of Flight Attendants—CWA (www.afacwa.org).
will be caught in the middle of these conflicts; some
extreme situations may even require returning to
the gate to remove an unruly passenger, upending
the plans of everyone on the flight.
Introducing the ability to make in-flight cellphone calls is a mistake. While seatmates will have
to compete with each other in order to hear and be
heard, flight attendants will have to compete against
the cacophony of conversations in order to pass
along lifesaving information.
Gaining attention in emergencies is a top concern, and flight attendants fear that rampant cellphone use will lead to chaos.
And while this ill-advised move could be a
headache for most, it also has the potential to create an unacceptable safety risk for flight attendants
On every commercial flight, a flight attendant’s
primary responsibility is to help ensure the safety of
every passenger. Flight attendants are first responders, ready to respond to emergency situations at a
moment’s notice and remain vigilant at all times.
Today’s travel experience often involves oversold flights, long lines and frazzled nerves from
heightened security and flight delays. Introducing
calls on planes will create conflicts between passengers over cellphone use that could quickly move
from annoyance to full-scale rage. Flight attendants
Passengers and airline crews overwhelmingly
support the current ban on cellphone use on airplanes. According to a recent Associated Press–
GfK poll, 78 percent of frequent fliers supported
the current ban on calls on planes. This fierce
opposition has remained unchanged for years. In
2005, the Association of Flight Attendants partnered with the National Consumers League and
found that, again, 78 percent of participants agreed
that cellphone use in the already tense, close quarters of an airplane could lead to increased passenger unruliness and interfere with a flight attendant’s
ability to maintain order.
Opinions expressed are those
of the individuals or organizations represented and are
presented to foster discussion. Costco and The Costco
Connection take no position
on any Debate topic.
Flight attendants are not on board to monitor
the contents of conversations; they are in the cabin
to protect the safety and security of passengers. C