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Should airlines allow cellphone use during flights?

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Greg Peck
December 12, 2013

Most Americans who fly oppose a proposal to lift the ban on cellphone use during airline flights, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Still, the Federal Communications Commission officially starts the debate today (Thursday). It is holding the first of several meetings to review its 22-year-old ban, The Associated Press reports. Tom Wheeler, new FCC chairman, has called the current rules “outdated and restrictive,” even though he previously has stated his preference is for no such phone calls. Seems like he's talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Supposedly, technology has advanced to the point where in-flight calls won't overload cell towers on the ground. So, says Wheeler, there's no reason the government should prohibit in-flight calls. This FCC proposal comes weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on using personal electronic devices such as iPads and Kindles below 10,000 feet because they don't interfere with cockpit instruments.

The new poll released Wednesday says 48 percent of Americans oppose allowing cellphone use for voice calls while flying. Only 19 percent support it. Thirty percent are neutral.

Delta Air Lines is the only airline to state it won't allow voice calls even if the government gives the green light. Delta says years of customer feedback shows “the overwhelming sentiment” is to keep the ban. American Airlines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways plan to study the issue and listen to feedback from passengers and crew.

Not surprisingly, the nation's largest flight attendant union opposes a change out of fears that cellphone use could lead to fights between passengers.

I don't know about you, but I would dread a flight where anyone and everyone might be yakking incessantly on cellphones. I remember sitting in a crowded passenger area in an airport after one flight delay and listening to a young woman sitting next to me. She was yammering on her cellphone to some friend or relative, chronicling her day of missed flights and flight delays—some misfortune of her own making. I can only imagine similar calls while someone sitting next to me is trying to speak loudly over the roar of the plane engine and I try to get a little shuteye.

Count me among the majority: Do not allow cellphone calls on flights. I would pay more money to fly Delta or any other airline that bans such calls.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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