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cell phone airplane plane man businessmanI knew the guy would be trouble the moment I spotted him ambling up to the Miami International Airport gate from which my Continental flight was leaving. I was on my way back to Philadelphia last week from a convention, and I just had a feeling that the unkempt loudmouth yakking on a cell phone and clutching a plastic cup of red wine would be sitting uncomfortably close to me.

I was wrong, of course. He was next to me. The last one on the plane, he stumbled down the aisle, looked at me huddled in the window seat, muttered an obscenity and squeezed himself into the middle. He immediately took out his phone and continued the argument he’d evidently left behind on the concourse.

Truth be told, I’m not a good flier, forever fearing every little bump and groan the aircraft makes. So I tend to take “rules” seriously, never questioning whether to put my seat back in the full and upright position or to turn off small electronics. My seatmate was a different breed — after the flight attendants made the announcement to stow away anything with a battery, he hung up the phone and started to text instead.

This went on for 10 minutes. No flight attendants caught onto the fact that his phone was still on, though I couldn’t get my mind off of it. Uncharacteristically, I nudged him as we began to roar down the runway and said, “Tell me you’re going to turn that thing off before takeoff.”

He muttered another obscenity and turned it off.

So what sort of danger were we in? Very little, most likely. I checked the Web site of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which prohibits the use of cell phones on flights. In 2007, the agency considered lifting the ban, but didn’t. Here’s why: “The FCC determined that the technical information provided by interested parties in response to the proposal was insufficient to determine whether in-flight use of wireless devices on aircraft could cause harmful interference to wireless networks on the ground. … In addition to the FCC’s rules, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits in-flight use of wireless devices because of potential interference to the aircraft’s navigation and communication systems.”

The Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters” program put the interference theory to the test and came out with a reassuring result: It found there was a “one in a million chance that some new cell phone could interfere with those instruments.” Slim chance perhaps, but still not worth the risk. Check out a two-minute abbreviation of the show here.

So what happened during our landing? Naturally, the guy couldn’t keep his phone off. Minutes into our descent, he pulled out his cell and started texting again. Once again, no flight attendant reprimand came. But this time, I just stared out the window and wondered why so many people think the rules don’t apply to them.

How do you feel about the use of cell phones in flight? Leave a comment or vote in our poll.

— written by John Deiner

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10 Responses to “Should Cell Phones Be Allowed on Planes?”

  1. Phyllis says:

    there are many people who text and talk in restaurants like no one else exists.They are the same people who text and drive more than likely.

  2. Sophie says:

    I’m like you–I follow the rules. I suppose if there is no danger to using phones, I could live with texting. But talking should be prohibited as a matter of courtesy. Too bad people aren’t naturally courteous about such things…

  3. barbara says:

    i dont care if it is safe i think it is rude to talk on a phone in such a confined space so everyone can hear u…flying should be relaxing not listenig to someone yapping..i feel the same way when getting a pedicure…eatting at a resturant..etc…its rude

  4. M. Carter says:

    These are also the same people who are blessed by natural selection and thus entitled to the (silly) red carpet the hoi polloi are not allowed to touch with uncleansed shod feet. I’m amazed he flew in the cattle section. Sure hope he took his vitamins, just in case.

  5. s foster says:

    What happens if several people turn their phones on? Is there a greater likelihood of interference?

  6. Merylyn says:

    I really don’t want to be seated beside someone who can’t keep their voice down while telling their friends how drunk they got the night before, or having a fight with their significan other. Cell phones are so obtrusive in confined spaces; I’d be asking the flight attendants for ear plugs rather quickly.

  7. Natalie says:

    I’d have grabbed the friggin’ phone and stomped on it. What an ass. No, cell phones should not be allowed on planes – or anywhere else in the hands of people too uncivilized to keep their conversations to themselves.

  8. Carole says:

    Wonder what wud happen if you stood in the aisle silently pre-takeoff until someone DID acknowledge the ass to whom the rules do not apply?

  9. ozetraveller says:

    The risk of interference is very small, but it does exist. Therefore, until a manufacturer or airline comes up with a system that eliminates the risk and specifically allows the use of mobiles, I will continue to follow the rules. That said, I would not EVER want conversations allowed in-flight for the same reason as other commentators – it is just rude to talk loudly in a confined space.
    I will continue to tell other travellers to turn off their phones when I notice and the crew do not.
    The most serious time to observe the no-phone rule is when boarding/disembarking via stairs rather than by an airbridge. The tarmac is always filled with avgas and avtur fumes, so I son’t want any unshielded radio signals in that environment!

  10. Chris Johnson says:

    The no-phone rule is something that is the best idea. I hate having to sit just on the train while some loud mouth person is talking on their phone. I deffinatly do not need that on a train where i want to relax.

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