"Hello? Are you there? It's me calling from seat 23D ... "
This could be the future of flying if the U.S. Federal Communications Commission lifts its ban on in-flight cellphone calls. Everyone seems to have an opinion and mostly it's not overwhelmingly positive. Even Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, agrees that voice calls should not be made on airplanes. He was recently quoted as saying, "We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself."
Yes, thoughts about long flights with a Chatty Cathy or Motormouth Mike leave many folks saying, "No way!" But before we all jump on the anti-in-flight-call bandwagon, let's consider how it could be a good thing, especially from a business perspective.
Fear of the Unknown
Indeed, we've been in similar situations when we worried about what effect something that wasn't allowed before was all of a sudden readily available and out there. At one time, companies worried about giving their employees telephones on their desks. We could never, they thought. Employees would waste the day away racking up personal calls and never get any work done. Hmm, it's hard to find a desk in an office today that doesn't have a phone (albeit it might be a mobile one now).
And what about back in the early 2000s when many companies made employees submit a request to get access to the Internet? Oh, we could never give them Internet access ... they would just spend all day IMing on AIM, shopping online and updating their Friendster profiles. (Well, a bit of that may be true, but you see where I am going with this.)
Things that we previously feared--out of thinking that people couldn't handle it--are now everyday occurrences. And, while these examples are from the workplace where there are certainly consequences for bad behavior, these same unfounded fears may hold true for in-flight calls.
Get Things Done
When I fly, I love to be able to get things done. Just ask anyone on my team. Put me on a plane for five hours and I'm in heaven because I can be hyperproductive. And sipping a glass of vino at 35,000 feet while I'm at it doesn't hurt either. I purposely book flights on airlines that have in-flight wi-fi because it enables me to do what I need to do. And in-flight wi-fi is becoming increasingly more popular with both business and casual travelers. If you were able to make in-flight phone calls, it would be great to be able to make a quick call and be done with it.
I'm not saying I would be taking conference calls from 35,000 feet, and I wouldn't advocate doing that, but I guess it could be done. That's where this whole situation gets sticky. You've got to depend on strangers to make smart choices and be good travel mates while you are all stuck together for the duration of the flight. Plus, I can't imagine a plane being very good for many long calls given crying babies, in-flight entertainment, etc. If we could all pinky swear we would use in-flight calls for good and not evil, it might just work.
What are your two cents on in-flight cellphone calls? Are you in favor or against? I'd love to hear your opinion in the comments.