Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Airlines Begin to Loosen Rules on Cellular Phone Usage

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Airlines Begin to Loosen Rules on Cellular Phone Usage

Article excerpt

Passengers were still filing down the aisle. The American Airlines flight attendant had to scoot around them to pounce on the miscreant like a hall monitor cornering a school scofflaw.

"Sir, you put that away immediately!" he barked.

The passenger, who had just completed a quick cell phone call to check his office voice mail, was already putting the phone away. But he told the flight attendant that he had thought it was permissible to use a cell phone on an airplane at the gate when the doors were still open.

"It's strictly against federal law," the flight attendant declared.

"Federal law or airline policy?" the passenger asked.

The ensuing discussion ended when the flight attendant threatened to have the passenger removed from the plane for questioning the source of the policy.

The answer, incidentally, is that individual airlines, not federal regulations, set policies about the use of cell phones while an aircraft is still at the gate with its doors open. But those policies are changing. While most airlines still prohibit the use of cell phones at any time on an aircraft, others have begun to loosen the rules and allow passengers to use the electronic devices until the plane's doors are shut. Some industry officials predict that the trend will soon encompass all major carriers.

Delta Air Lines, the latest carrier to allow cell phone use on board at the gate, changed its policy last month after an eight-month study of the potential for cell phone interference with preflight preparations in the cockpit.

"We concluded it was safe," said John Kennedy, a spokesman for Delta. "All the airlines have been looking at this for some time. We just did not know how cell phones might interfere with all the other communications that are going on in an aircraft" while it is still boarding passengers.

Besides improving customer satisfaction, especially among business travelers, the policy change has the effect of expediting the boarding process and departure times, because those who have to make a call know they can now do it on board. …

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