As the CEO of a travel management company representing hundreds of thousands of the most demanding business travelers, I feel a responsibility to weigh in on the issue of allowing cell phone calls in flight.
In short, this is a terrible idea.
But that hasn't stopped the Federal Communications Commission from proposing a rule that would allow airlines to offer in-flight mobile phone service, lifting a ban that has been in place since 1991.
A 60-day comment period on the rule started Wednesday, and I have plenty to say when it comes to this idea.
Here are my thoughts:
Phone rage. Ever heard of road rage, the anger that possesses disgruntled drivers to run each other off the road and shoot each other? Allowing cell phone calls during flights could lead to what I'm calling "phone rage." With passengers already struggling to cram their luggage into crowded overhead bins, and many shorter flights in the US not offering snacks or beverages, allowing cell phone calls during flights could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Do you want to be a witness to an in-flight fist fight over a lengthy, loud cell phone call? I don't.
There are other forms of acceptable communication besides phone calls. In fact, if millennials like my daughters are any indication, nobody really needs to talk on the phone anymore. If someone needs to be in touch with a person on the ground during a flight, they can send e-mails or text messages rather than making phone calls. Forcing your neighbors on a cross-country flight to listen to your business banter seems unnecessary.
Making phone calls on flights won't help business travelers be more productive. At a certain point, people cease being productive. Alone time on flights is a sacred right of the road warrior, and should be respected.
Passengers on flights are a captive audience. Much like secondhand smoke, secondhand phone conversations would have a negative effect on people. Unlike trains, planes don't have the luxury of space and accompanying amenities like quiet cars.
People need privacy. Other than reciting your meditation mantra, plugging in your headphones, or taking a stroll up the aisle, you don't really have a choice about hearing a fellow passenger's phone conversation on an airplane. Until airplanes are able to provide travelers with the choice between cell-phone-friendly flights and non-cell-phone-friendly flights, allowing cell phone calls during flights is non-utilitarian and takes away our right to privacy.
Instead of providing an extra amenity for travelers, in-flight mobile phone calls would only make business airplane travel more unpleasant, and potentially unsafe.