Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ask Angie: What’s the real story with cell phones on a plane?

A couple questions have come in recently about cell phone use on airplanes:
- What do you do when the person seated next to you is still using their cell phone after the door is shut?

- Airlines in Europe allow the use of cell phones on planes. What do you think about cell phone usage coming to United States domestic flights?

To me, cell phone use on planes comes down to two issues:

1. Is it dangerous?

2. Is it annoying?

These two questions are basically how I make all my decisions: Will it kill me? Will it annoy me? If the answer is no to both then I’ll probably do it.

Let’s just get the annoying part out of the way. Yes, a hundred people all talking on their cell phone would be annoying – so annoying in fact the airlines might as well have police standing by after every flight to arrest people for assault and battery of loud talkers. Limiting cell phone usage to texting and instant message would solve the annoying problem.

So to the dangerous question:

Many people have provided examples of their cell phones being “accidently” left on and no harm was done to the navigational system of the airplane. Now that many flights are WiFi enabled, it’s hard to believe that accessing the cell phone satellite is substantially more dangerous than accessing the WiFi satellite (because in some cases it might be the very same satellite). This article asserts that it is the FTC keeping cell phone use off planes and not the FAA. That makes sense since many European carriers have allowed cell phone use on their flights.

So my final decision on cell phone usage on planes is fine as long as it is limited to texting or instant message because that would make it not annoying and not dangerous.

Now this doesn’t electronic devices should be on during take off or landing. The reason the FAA requires you to discontinue the use of anything electronic is more about your safety in case of emergency. If something goes wrong during those critical windows of flight, they need you to be paying attention – not rapping along with Vanilla Ice remix busting from your headphones or breathlessly waiting for those vampires to do whatever it is they do. They need to be paying attention!

So what do I do when I see someone who has not turned off their cell phone and we are getting ready to take off or land. Well, if that person is in between me and an aisle – it’s dangerous and having to return to the gate to arrest this jackass would be annoying so I employ a couple different tactics:

1. I try to read what they are texting. This usually makes them uncomfortable and they’ll shut it down.

2. If they are actually talking on the phone, I glare at them. And continue to glare at them and then glare at them some more. If this doesn’t work, I will say, “I think that is supposed to be off.” Because sitting next to a pissed off person with an on-time departure is far preferable to heading back to the gate because a pissed off flight attendant was tired of jackasses who refuse to turn off their phones and decided to take a stand with this one.

Otherwise, I just leave it alone. They usually shut it off before we actually take off so the danger subsides.

What about you? Got any good cell phone plane stories?

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