Is it inevitable to call a mobile phone on an airplane?

(CNN)- Oh holiday Travel.. The flight during this time is busy, with a large number of people and late weather. Now close your eyes and imagine the whole scenario with another annoyance.
Don’t worry-this potentially ear-splitting scenario isn’t real least America.. But that may be soon. Some even say it’s only a year or two away.

Technologies that support aerial mobile phones currently exist.

Almost all planes that offer WiFi have bandwidth that supports voice over the Internet, and some international airlines have already allowed voice calls on certain routes. Still, at least on flights within the United States, voice calls are banned for four clear reasons: flight attendants, public awareness, safety concerns, and US law.

According to Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry analysis company in San Francisco, airline officials will carry their mobile phones on board until they feel or do not feel overwhelming demand from their customers. I don’t even consider a phone call. Still, the airline may not yet sink.

“By all means, allowing mobile phone calls on planes is controversial,” he says. “These are exactly the kind of problems that airlines tend to avoid unless they need them.”

Calm the cabin

Flight attendants have already arbitrated many passenger disputes.


Undoubtedly, flight attendants are the biggest barrier to allowing voice calls in the air.

Almost entirely, people working in airplane cabins say that the idea of ​​allowing passengers the freedom to use the phone on board leads to confusion, conflict, and complete madness in flight. Therefore, they are loudly opposed to the use of the phone.

Flight attendants are already tasked with managing the use of overhead bins, monitoring the drink intake of unruly passengers, and mediating the battle between seat reclining chairs and non-reclining passengers.

Taylor Garland, a spokesman for the Flight Attendants Association, a union representing 50,000 flight attendants on 20 airlines, says her colleagues do not want to undertake any further crackdowns on passenger social behavior. increase.

“We strongly oppose voice calls on airplanes,” she wrote in a recent email. In another example, she doubled in all capital letters: “No cell phone.”

The opposition of flight attendants is important.

They have had a major impact on certain domestic passenger travel decisions. In recent years, they have been at the forefront of efforts to get airlines to control unmanageable passengers. In the 1980s, they led the accusations of cigarettes in the cabin, eventually leading to a full-scale ban on in-flight smoking by 2000.

Regarding the issue of mobile phones on board, flight attendants say that passengers will inevitably offend some neighbors by being too loud, and the debate will surely continue.

Cassandra Michelle Brown, a flight attendant working at Frontier Airlines, adds that free use of mobile phones in the air can prevent passengers from following the flight attendant’s instructions in an emergency.

“After all, our job is to evacuate the aircraft within 90 seconds,” says Las Vegas-based Brown.

“If you are a passenger on my plane, no matter how good you are at multitasking, if you are focused on your phone, you will not be able to evacuate according to my step-by-step instructions. . “

Passengers claiming quietness

Airplane 04 phone talking on an airplane

Most passengers don’t want to hear fellow travelers talking on their cell phones.


There is a mixed sentiment between travel professionals and travelers about allowing voice calls in the air.

Like flight attendants, a delegation of passenger voices appears as loud opponents, and the open environment for in-flight cell phone calls creates an “annoying” dissonance of empty turmoil, arguably about what. Volumes that claim to cause disagreements are appropriate.

Analyst Harteveldt is in the camp and, according to a recent survey by his company, less than 5% of all air passengers in the country want to use their mobile phones in the air.

“If you can avoid it, you don’t want to be forced to intercept someone else’s conversation,” he says. “It’s bad enough when you get into that situation in a coffee shop or hotel lobby. It’s scary when you can’t do anything or escape anywhere on a cruising altitude plane.”

Other passengers say privacy would also be a concern, as even top-notch passengers are tightly packed into airplane seats during most flights.

However, business travelers seem to be more practical in their thinking.

Paul Forg, a consultant who manages performance improvements for global private equity portfolio companies and travels 40 weeks a year, says he can see situations where using the phone on board can help.

“In an emergency where you really need to get in touch with someone, it’s great to know that you can pick up the phone and do it from the plane,” says San Francisco-based Forg. increase. “In situations where you need to talk to a colleague about something that can’t be clearly expressed in text or email, it’s perfect unless people use it.”

According to Forg, airlines are one of the strategies that can be implemented to allow mobile phone calls on board. A special area for planes for passengers who want to use the phone and a special area for passengers who do not.

This is a plan developed by Amtrak and various commuter rail systems across the country. In most cases, it works, except for occasional abuse and overflow issues on busy trips.

Is the technology safe?

01 Airplane mobile phone is not speaking

The new plane is designed to be unaffected by passenger technology.


The story of in-room calls from personal devices is a colorful story that dates back decades.

In the 1980s and 1990s, when cellular technology became mainstream, its use on airplanes was relatively unchecked. If you’re over 40, swipe your credit card for $ 4 or $ 5 or more per minute and you’ll remember a seatback handset that anyone can use. These were essentially early public mobile phones.

Even after the millennium began, mobile phone calls were largely unregulated. Victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were able to summon their loved ones from a hijacked plane before the plane crashed.

The rise of smartphones has changed everything.

As phones become more sophisticated, industry insiders are concerned that the radio transmitter of the phone may interfere with certain equipment in the cockpit, resulting in unreliability of some equipment. Was there.

Many of these concerns were inspired by published papers on the potential impact of electromagnetic interference on flight navigation and communication systems. Key points of these reports: Some devices can interfere with unshielded cockpit instruments, and in the worst case, such interference can affect the normal operation of the airplane. ..

Later, airline experts pointed out that this was a problem with older devices on older aircraft.

Seth Miller, an industry analyst and owner of the PaxEx.areo blog, said the new phone will operate at much higher frequencies and the new plane will not be affected by the amount of electronics that passengers bring in when flying. Said it was designed.

“There was one documented example of something that affected depth. [instruments] In one very specific old (airline) model under certain circumstances, Miller says. “But we couldn’t reliably determine if it was a phone that was leaking radio frequencies when it shouldn’t be, or if it should be and the screen of the device wasn’t shielded from a particular frequency. “

“In reality, new technologies and new equipment have almost eliminated this problem,” Miller says. “There is no longer a technical reason why people don’t use mobile phones on planes.”

In fact, internationally, a few airlines have contracts with third-party vendors to provide and license satellite-based Internet services that support voice calls over mobile phones. Some of these include British Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

Viasat, a telecommunications company based in Carlsbad, California, is one of those vendors. Don Buffman, vice president of the company and general manager of commercial aviation, said his company’s system will be able to make voice calls over the Internet tomorrow if airline customers desire.

“Most airlines have the ability to allow voice calls on their devices, but we choose not to allow them,” he says. “Once the industry is ready, it’s probably as easy as switching it on.”

Practical regulatory obstacles

Text messages are already allowed on some airlines.

Text messages are already allowed on some airlines.


Making voice calls from mobile phones on commercial flights is not technically illegal, but there are two major regulatory restrictions that have the same effect.

First, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the US federal agency that oversees telecommunications transmission in the United States, has banned the aerial use of the two most frequently used cellular bands.

The agency recently considered a proposal to allow airplane passengers to use their phones for high altitude calls. This policy was introduced in 2013 by then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, but the current FCC Chairman Agit Pai abandoned it in 2017.

“Taking it off the table forever would be a win for an American like me who values ​​quiet moments at 30,000 feet,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) takes a similar position.

Section 403 of the FAA Re-approval Act of 2018 states, “The Secretary of Transport is a regular passenger of an aircraft. We shall issue a rule prohibiting you from doing so. ”

The law allows exceptions for flight crew and law enforcement officers.

Indeed, mobile phone voice call pushes may subside naturally. Text messages are already allowed by many US carriers, and more and more business travelers are using group text services instead of conference calls. Then, of course, there is an email. It is also available to passengers who earn cash to access standard in-flight WiFi.

Who calls people anyway?

Moreover, millennials and younger generations rarely speak on the phone.

From the PaxEx.areo blog, Miller predicts that regulators will eventually lift restrictions on in-flight mobile phones and leave it up to individual airlines to decide if this is the service they want to offer.

“Whenever there is a safety reason that something doesn’t happen, the aviation industry always tries to make mistakes on the safety side,” he says. “On the contrary, we found that there was no risk associated with using mobile phones on board, so the FAA and FCC may change the rules. If so, it is natural for airlines to adopt it. That is. “

Despite the relatively technical feasibility of mobile phones on board, it’s still years before travelers may have to tackle them in real life, given all the opposition. It may take.

This means that you may not be able to participate in future work calls from the Mississippi Delta’s 35,000 feet.

It also means that on your holiday travel adventure, you don’t have to hear your seat neighbor yell at your loved one’s grandma’s recipe for Christmas struffoli. Think of yourself as lucky. for now.

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