Facing the Horror of In-Flight Phone Calls, Americans Beg the Feds for Help

Get to the airport two hours early, just to stand in line? Sure. Squeeze into an ever smaller seat? OK. Paying extra for overhead bin space? Yup. Deal with the guy next to you hogging the armrest? Fine. Sit in silence as the lady two rows back shouts into her cellphone? Absolutely not. No way. Never.

The put-upon people have spoken, and they have at long last drawn the line. The flying experience feels like it gets crummier all the time, and people trudge through it. But,it seems, other passengers’phone calls would fly right past the breaking point, and keep on going.

In a bid to preserve sanity, thefederal Department of Transportation is considering a ban on in-air calls using WiFi, and invited the public to share their thoughts. And boy did they: Over 8,000 of peoplelogged on and left comments before the consultation ended Monday. And probably no surprise to anyone: The American people are gaga for this travel-related ban.

Having to hear others’ phone calls on any vehicle is an intrusion on ones privacy. No voice communications by passengers should be allowed on airline flights, period, says Steven Joyce.

Can you imagine hundreds of people confined in a small space all yelling into their phones for the entire duration of a flight,” asks an anonymous commenter. “I beg of you, please do not allow voice calls on flights.”

We are frequent travelers and airline travel is already stressful enough with long delays and security checks at the airports, fights for overhead space and cramped seating. Allowing cell phone conversational usage will only be the match that ignites numerous airline disturbances, Albert Milo frets.

Some of the loudest protests come from the keepers of the peace at 30,000 feet. “It threatens aviation security and increases the likelihood of conflict in the skies,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said in a statement. “No calls on planes. Period.”

If you’ve never suffered the degradation of flying economy and wonder why people are so worked up, science serves up part of the answer. A 2013 University of San Diego study found it’s harder to tune out a phone call than two people chatting, because your brain keeps trying to fill in the gaps on the side you can’t hear. That makes it harder to focus on anything else, which quickly becomes irritating if you can’t escape. And thus, the worries about violence.

The Federal Communications Commission has long banned in-flight calls using cell networks, but now wants to update the rules to allow airlines and passengers to take full advantage of new satellite services like Gogos 2Ku and Inmarsat’s Global Express poised to make in-flightWiFi fast enough to enable calls over Skype or FaceTime.

The DOT has reservations, hence the proposed ban, along with a proposal that airlines must notify passengers in advance if calls are allowed on their flight. Now, newly installed DOT chief Elaine Chao gets to pursue the rule, or drop the issue and let airlines decide for themselves.

The good news for you, dear traveler, is airlines have heard passengers loud objections over the years (especially during a 2013 debate over a proposal to allow cell network calls). Several, including Delta, United, and Southwest, already ban voice calls of all types.

The inevitable bad news is that where theres a chance to make money, the airline industry tends to take it. Outside the US, airlines like Emirates, Lufthansa, and Virgin Atlantic connect passenger calls via satellite. For a price, fliers can chat as loudly as they like.

The future of aviation may deliver salvation. Airbus is working on a concept dividing cabins into areas like cafes and spas, so why not a quiet room? Until then, consider noise-canceling headphones your new best friend.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2017/02/facing-horror-flight-phone-calls-americans-beg-feds-help/

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