Cell phones — yes or no? That is the question

Written by admin on October 30, 2008 – 1:13 pm -

When the pilot announces all electronics must be turned off before the plane departs, it’s amazing how many people continue phone conversations, sending text messages or emails as if the world were coming to an end. They must be very important.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations prohibit any use of mobile phones except when the aircraft is on the ground. It is believed that cell phone use may interfere with aircraft electronics. Airlines can be fined up to $25,000 if they permit mobile phone usage during a flight. Individuals are also liable.

Some travelers think they know better and contend that cell phones or PDA’s don’t interfere with take offs or landings or feel they’re simply beyond the law. What happened to the old days when we waved goodbye and left our troubles behind while we soared through the sky?

If Representative Peter DeFazio has his way, cell phone use on airplanes may not be allowed. Defazio has introduced legislation that would prohibit passengers from using their cell phones during flights. He calls it the Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace (HANG UP) Act.

Travelers who consider flying a way to get away from some of the realities of life and would like to sleep, work or simply read a book are hoping the bill passes. There is obviously a battle going on. Even some scientific groups are getting in on the dispute claiming using cell phones on planes will hurt astronomy research efforts.

On the other side of the Atlantic, airlines and regulators are moving toward allowing cell phone use on airplanes. Are we Luddites on this side of the ocean?

I’ll confess, I’m totally technologically challenged and am firmly in the camp of maintaining cell phone free cabins. I also follow all directions, when I can. As soon as the no electronics announcement is made, I turn off my Blackberry and touch nothing until I see its  dark screen. But, on a recent flight, I looked in my purse and was horrified that the cell phone evidently had a mind of its own — the screen was shining like a beacon. If the plane had crashed, it definitely would have been my fault.

I often wonder, can cell phone use be an addition? During one trip to Beijing, I witnessed a man, tapping non-stop. When he deplaned and had a signal, I’m certain his email recipients probably wanted to commit suicide. There was no question he was productive during the 12+ hours duration of the flight.

During 2007, The Federal Aviation Administration recorded 133 cases in which passengers were charged for unruly behavior, such as interfering with the duties of crew members when requested not to use cell phones.

How would you vote on allowing or banning cell phone use on airplanes?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis

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