Cell Phones Should Be Allowed on Airplanes

ID-100159480Traveling to other parts of the world is always exciting, but sitting on an airplane for hours is not fun at all. The best way to overcome the boredom of flying is to play games or watch movies. In October, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed airlines to expand the use of personal electronics. Passengers are now able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos during takeoffs and landings. Turning off electronics is no longer mandatory, but connecting to the Internet remains prohibited at altitudes below 10,000 feet. Since most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference from portable electronic devices, should the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allow airlines to let their passengers use cell phones on airplanes? Of course they should. Its convenient especially when boredom strikes on lengthy flights. At first I was skeptical about the idea, but acquiring more information has changed my mind. With mobile devices, people can send text messages, check emails, and make phone calls inside an airplane. Now that airlines have the capability to allow this, most people say it’s going to cause a lot of problems.

The question is: is it safe to use mobile devices on airplanes? During my first experience traveling, I remember being informed to turn off all personal electronics, including laptops and cell phones. The reason was over concerns about cell phone signals interrupting signals with the flight navigation system. Since my first flight, I have always turned off electronics in fear of something going terribly wrong. Flying today is safer than ever before because newer planes have better equipment and technology. This is why a proposal to lift the ban on cell phones was brought up by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. He stated, “Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules.” I see nothing wrong with this move, and the FCC should continue to do their job. If mobile devices are deemed safe to use, then the ban on cell phones is pointless. Once the FCC approval is made, airlines can choose whether to allow mobile service to passengers.

Studies have convinced me that I have nothing to worry about when people use their mobile device on airplanes. Aaron Cooper of CNN reported in a 2012 study done by the FAA that, “They collected data from 11 countries and concluded civil aviation authorities reported no confirmed occurrences of cell phones affecting flight safety on aircraft with onboard cellular telephone base stations.” Instead, the policy of allowing cell phones offered convenience for the passengers on foreign airlines. If companies like British Airways and Emirates Airlines have no interference problems as a result of people using their phones in the air, why doesn’t the United States allow it? The FAA still needs approval from the FCC, which has jurisdiction over in-flight cellular devices. The real reason why there was a ban on cell phones in the first place is because of its potential interference with ground networks. All personal electronics and mobile devices had to be turned off during takeoffs and landings as a safety precaution. With advanced technology in airplanes, cell phones can now transmit signals without causing problems. This shows that my belief that cell phones and electronic devices had the ability to crash a plane was always a myth.

When the FCC announced the proposal, lawmakers Bill Shuster and Lamar Alexander were in disagreement. Both have offered legislation to keep the ban on cell phone calls during flights intact. Keith Liang believes they’re not “worried about the safety of their passengers, but for their sanity.” I agree that some people talking on their phones can be loud and annoying, but, while flying, it would be nice to have some type of communication with friends and family instead of talking to the stranger sitting next to me. If people talking on their phones proved to be a noisy problem, I would simply wear my noise-cancelling headphones. Frequent travelers just need to be prepared for the fact that in-flight calls will be allowed soon. In the proposal, the FCC also cited “how access to cellular service can be helpful in case of emergencies” like in the case when passengers needed to use their phones to call family about being on a hijacked plane during September 11, 2001. Within that same article, Nicholas Tanner had the same reaction as me saying, “Sometimes people do have important phone calls to make. For everyone that doesn’t want to listen to the phone calls of others, you can watch a movie, listen to music, or simply buy ear plugs.”

In addition to the lawmakers and travelers, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) also found the possibility of allowing passengers to make cell phone calls a bad idea. It could “extend beyond a mere nuisance, creating negative effects on aviation safety and security that are great and far too risky.” Phone calls can be loud and disruptive creating unwanted noise for other passengers. This viewpoint indicates that flight attendants are scared about a fight breaking out. I feel none of this is likely to happen because passengers can still get arrested for disturbing the peace on a flight. Nobody wants this to happen, so I would expect cell phone etiquette to be enforced by airlines. According to a poll on Huffington Post, it found 49 percent of Americans do not want cell phones allowed on planes, even if the FCC determines it’s safe, while 31 percent want phones to be allowed. The poll also found that 63 percent would want text messaging allowed if the FCC decides it’s safe. This shows people are likely to do more texting and less calling if cell phones are allowed.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed to allow cell phones on airplanes because it was the right thing to do. Cellular base stations installed on airplanes made it possible for mobiles devices to work above 10,000 feet. Travelers will soon be able to text, email, and call people from their phones. Banning in-flight use of cell phones just does not make sense anymore. There is no interference with aircraft equipment, and the addition of cell phones being allowed on airplanes will be a great customer service. Mobile services have been available to passengers on International airlines for almost seven years, and still there have been no reported problems. Most passengers will not want to make voice calls on airplanes, and I doubt anyone is going to be on their phone for the entire flight. If the person is loud, I would politely ask them to keep it down. Who knows, maybe airlines will make rules where calls should be quick, quiet or only for emergencies. In any case, most people use their phones mainly for texting, emailing, and browsing the Internet. Gray Shapiro stated, “While we want to avoid disrupting the flight for all passengers with noisy phone conversations, we should not shut out other connectivity opportunities for cell phones in flight.” If the FCC allows airlines to let their passenger use cell phones, it would be the airlines’ decision to permit the service or not. Lawmakers, flight attendants, and many travelers are quick to say “no” to cell phones on airplanes, but they might want to reconsider their position. Being able to use a cell phone on an airplane will make traveling more enjoyable.


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