No escape from cellphone blabbers?

The News TribuneNovember 26, 2013 

A passenger checks her phone after boarding. Airlines might soon allow cellphone calls in flight.

MATT SLOCUM/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Flight attendants often have to deal with scary cases of “air rage” involving unruly passengers. Just wait until they also have to settle disputes between travelers hoping to catch some shuteye on a redeye and those who insist on having loud cellphone conversations.

You know the ones. Either they think their conversations are so important that everyone in a 50-yard radius needs to hear them or they’re blissfully unaware of how loud their voices are. They can be heard having very public chats – about topics that are best kept private – in restaurants, on transit, even in public libraries. (And whatever happened to librarians gently shushing obnoxiously loud patrons?)

Air travel has its headaches, but once the plane is aloft, having to listen to loud cellphone chatter hasn’t been one of them. That could be changing now that the Federal Communications Commission is considering relaxing its rules against in-flight cellphone use for calls, emails, texts and downloading data. Airlines would be able to make their own policy on whether to allow those calls.

Sending text messages, reading email and perusing the Internet are great ways to pass time on a plane (several airlines already offer in-flight WiFi service). But airlines should either completely resist the idea of allowing phone calls in flight or, at the very least, restrict how much time is allowed for them. (One frequent flier had a creative idea: Make those who want to talk on their phone sit in a special section with the screaming babies.)

It’s probably inevitable that airlines will figure out a way to charge for making phone calls in flight. They should recognize that a lot of travelers likely will migrate to carriers that are on a no-call list. Delta has already announced it would not allow cellphone calls even if the FCC proposal is approved.

Of course, some airline passengers undoubtedly will welcome the chance to make phone calls. Many people today seem almost physically incapable of being unconnected for even the length of time it would take to make a short hop on a plane.

Some lack any qualms about inflicting aggravation on those around them. Their behavior reflects the trend toward blithely behaving in public in ways that used to be confined to their homes. They wear pajamas to the grocery store, have loud conversations in movie theaters, use rough language where tender ears can hear it and blast music on their car stereos to advertise their coolness.

Loud cellphone conversations are bad enough on terra firma. They would be hellish in the already uncomfortable confines of air travel. Airlines should nip this bad idea in the bud.

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