Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Let Us Fly and Phone at the Same Time the United States Is an Outlier When It Comes to Allowing Cell Calls in Flight

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Let Us Fly and Phone at the Same Time the United States Is an Outlier When It Comes to Allowing Cell Calls in Flight

Article excerpt

What would the friendly skies look like if you could use your cell phone on flights in U.S. airspace?

Comments recently closed on a proposed Department of Transportation rule that would continue the long-standing U.S. ban on in-flight use of cell phones, and the response was overwhelming and predictable.

"Increased conflict and misery," predicted one of the 1,760 respondents. "Violence on the aircraft," surmised another. Members of Congress seem to agree: In February, a House Committee voted to require the DOT to issue a ban, never mind the public comments.

The sentiment is understandable, emotional and entirely irrational. Currently, more than 4,000 planes globally have been outfitted with wi-fi and cellular service, and the experiences of airlines and civil aviation authorities suggest that phones are no more detrimental to a safe in-flight experience than free wine and beer on international flights.

Take, for example, Emirates, the Dubai-based international carrier that, according to its comments filed with the DOT - has offered "in-flight voice connectivity" since 2008. During that period, passengers have made more than 1 million calls on their own phones with "only two negative complaints registered to date." Strikingly, of the users of the service, the third most frequent, according to Emirates, are Americans.

This is not just the self-serving rationalization of an airline hoping to earn the right to earn extra fees from passengers stuck on long-haul flights. The results are supported by data obtained during a 2012 Federal Aviation Administration study of 11 civil aviation authorities around the world that allow in-flight calling. The conclusions, far from suggesting an in-flight battlefield, reveal a far more benign picture:

"No non-U. …

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