In recent years, people have become more and more inseparable from their smartphones—to the point of experiencing withdrawal every time they lose service for ten minutes—and in turn have become increasingly disruptive in settings that traditionally require quiet: meetings and lectures, in the classroom, at movie theaters. There is one place, however, that cell phone use has been historically and, for the most part, successfully banned—airplanes. But that might be changing soon.
For those who appreciate the rarity of quiet, the few hours spent at 35,000 feet, severed from electronic communications, give them solace. Thanks to a new Federal Communication Commission’s proposal to lift the ban on in-air cellular connections, however, that peaceful air space may be invaded by cell phones and loud talkers. If the proposal passes, passengers will be allowed to make calls when the plane exceeds 10,000 feet.
While some business travelers might appreciate the new “amenity,” vacationing passengers are likely to be a bit more hesitant. Airplane travelers are already forced to spend hours in close quarters with strangers. They don’t want to be forced to listen to their neighbors’ loud, drawn out conversations too, while they’re trying to nap or read.
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And indeed, in a survey of 1,600 adults by an advisory group, the FAA found that 61 percent of those surveyed supported the ban on in-flight phone calls, CNN reports. Members of the Association of Flight Attendants, the globe’s largest union of flight attendants, were also loudly opposed to the proposal. In a statement released Thursday, members argued that in-flight calls would pose threats to safety and security. Picture a verbal-exchange-turned-fist fight between a chatty passenger and a napping one.
“We’re trained to de-escalate. Why would you put something in the environment that can escalate?” Veda Shook, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told CNN.
“The idea potentially introduces yet another stress factor into an already stressful environment,” airline pilot Patrick Smith also told CNN.
For the most part, pilots, flight attendants, and frequent travelers, informed by experience, simply don’t trust the general public to abide by responsible and respectful etiquette when it comes to their phone conversations.
The “controversial” proposal will be presented by the FCC in December. If it is passed it will still take some time for airlines to implement the new policy, as lots of additional on-board technology will be required to make in-flight calls possible. Until then, travelers have plenty of time to start browsing for a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones—just in case.