It looks like the FCC may soon relax the prohibition on using cell phones on planes.
The Federal Communications Commission said it will soon propose allowing passengers to use their cellphones on airplanes, setting up a debate that will pit the technically possible against the socially tolerable.
That would remove a regulatory hurdle to in-flight calls, but it would be up to the airlines themselves whether to allow them. Airlines have said they would approach the matter cautiously because of strong objections from their customers.
I already hated traveling by plane but its one saving grace was that it was an oasis of peace and quiet in a public place, uninterrupted by TVs and people talking loudly and interminably on cell phones.
If I am stuck on a cramped seat next to such an inconsiderate person, I will likely not say anything because it is legal. I will try and shut out the noise as best as I can. But I see trouble as some people request silence and are rebuffed or they up the ante and start talking even more loudly on their own phones, to give the other person a taste of their own medicine. Can fisticuffs be far behind? Is it any wonder that flight attendants are worried that they will have to deal with unruly people?
It will be interesting to see which airlines continue to have the ban. Some such as Southwest, Delta, and Virgin have said they are unlikely to allow cell phone use since the feedback they have got is overwhelmingly negative. United has said they are studying the proposal. It would not surprise me if they allowed it since United does not seem to care much about customer satisfaction.
Perhaps some airlines will bring back something similar to the old days when planes were divided into smoking and non-smoking sections, just like some restaurants that already have cell phone free sections. Airlines will likely resist this because it makes seat assignments and boarding more complicated.