Airplane passengers are being asked to cheer up. As the end of the year approached, passenger numbers increased and a controversial practice became unavoidable — everyone else was talking, and everyone else was listening. The new practice is talking on cell phones on planes.
The phenomenon has been going on for a few years, with plenty of reasons offered for why it’s happening. One person put it this way: “a couple of years ago, I’d hear air travelers making disgusting sounds because they were talking on their phones.” Another point of view says that the trend was sparked by the United Airlines pilot’s nonchalant attitude towards allowing passengers to make use of cell phones on his plane:
“I remember once watching a United pilot on the radio railing against regulators and what he saw as arbitrary rules for the right to use cell phones on the plane,” Steve Edwards told NBC News. “But a fellow pilot sitting across the aisle mentioned to me the same thing, after the pilot actually turned the phone on, several passengers were screaming, ‘USA!! USA!! USA!!’… ‘I think he may have been having mid-flight porno fun at the moment.’”
Cell phone use on planes now in use. Being all business or having other things on your mind, few are able to use their phones. #SRW @VitalPlane pic.twitter.com/sf9JC45EOb — Brad Starke (@BradStarke) June 2, 2016
None of the explanations hold water. Back in 2015, we said that although a bit unpleasant at first, people seemed to have accepted it.
Everyone is talking on their phones during take off and landing. Crew like this @Delta pilot gets to fly next year, with an increased salary! #SRW @FtD1c9 — Sam Womack (@thesweetpampery) December 30, 2016
Any time a new invention becomes the norm and not merely a fad, things go badly wrong.
In other words, when every other person on the plane is talking, if you’re not you might as well shut your mouth. Any argument could come back to bite you in your own backyard, when someone else makes their voice heard.
Former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood recently said: “Cell phone calls would destroy families on airplanes — and destroy friendships.” However, family and friends are not passengers, nor are passengers most at risk from cellphone use in flight. Customers on American and United flights can be given the option to use non-phone-enable devices and those who do not opt out may pay the additional fee, including for phones. The argument that smartphone use in flight adds to the stress of flying is not without merit.
“You can’t have your smartphone in your pocket or purse,” LaHood told ABC News. “You don’t know what people are doing on their phones. I don’t know that you’re talking to your girlfriend, you’re talking to your brother, you’re talking to your mom. I don’t know if you’re checking your Facebook or talking to your mom on the phone.”
Several airlines have made similar noises and there is now a widely-praised task force that researches airline safety. But it is frustratingly inefficient, since its position would be directly affected by how air travel goes. Sure, it can be easier to take the chances and just turn your phone off, but this can be dangerous when you’re in flight. If you want to turn down the volume on your call, don’t hold it in your hands — any breeze may rattle it or leave it stranded in the pocket.
If a crew has left you alone to talk, that may be a simple procedure. But if another person has been granted an opportunity to speak, the entire conversation could become abusive and anything could be a conversation topic.
Members of the task force are welcomed but we hope they remain unbiased. No regulation is impossible but it can sometimes be impossible to explain to those for whom cell phones on planes is a recent occurrence.