The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

November 24, 2013

In-flight cell phone rule changes being considered

(Continued)

“Our customer feedback indicates people may not want that policy, but of course tastes and desires change,” JetBlue spokesman Morgan Johnston said in an email. “We would prioritize making the cabin comfortable and welcoming for all — for those who want cell service and for those who like peace and quiet.”

Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Hudson Crossing, said, “There are bad ideas, and then there’s this.”

“Unlike the ability to use their personal electronics and Wi-Fi from gate to gate, passengers don’t want this,” he added. “The constant chatter of passengers on their mobile phones has the potential to further increase tension among already stressed-out passengers. It will be a catalyst for increased cases of ‘air rage.’”

Airline pilot and blogger Patrick Smith said permitting phone calls on planes “introduces yet another stress factor into an already stressful environment.”

“Airports already are such loud places,” he said. “It’s the airplane itself, ironically, that is often the most quiet and peaceful part of the air travel experience. Is that about to change?”

Should the FCC lift its restrictions on cellphone use, airlines would still have the option of deciding whether to equip planes with picocells — small, satellite base stations — to handle calls. American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said the airline will wait to see what the FCC does. “However, our Wi-Fi at this time doesn’t allow voice calls.”

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration lifted restrictions on the use of most personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings, but not cellphone calls, which fall under the FCC.

The FAA long had barred the use of electronic devices below 10,000 feet because of concern they could cause electronic interference with aircraft systems during landings, the phase of flight when accidents are most likely to occur.

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