It's likely just a matter of time before domestic airlines begin allowing passengers to use their cellphones to make calls during flights. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its intention to re-evaluate the rules regarding electronics on airplanes this past August, which could lead to rule changes that allow in-flight cellphone calls, change the content of in-flight announcements, and possibly create a new set of standards for manufacturers that want to make plane-friendly devices.
While many look forward to such changes, some worry about what new problems could arise. "If you let people use phones on planes, I'm afraid they will abuse it," said Meredith Wilson, a Seattle resident who recently flew into Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, reported the Los Angeles Times. "It could cause a lot of problems."
Likewise, an American Airlines spokesperson said the airline is not making cellphone use on planes a priority because there's not a strong demand for it. Some flight attendants have also voiced opposition to allowing cellphone use on planes, predicting that such rules would make their jobs more difficult.
Some foreign airlines that allow cellphones to be used on board don't see what the fuss is about. "The majority of people are considerate about using cellphones," said Patrick Brannelly, a spokesman for Emirates, adding that most passengers use their cellphones to send text messages, not talk. "It's a self-managing environment in many ways."
Passengers on Emirates flights have used cellphones to make approximately 625,000 calls since their use was first allowed in 2008, and according to the airline, it has only received two passenger complaints about people making loud calls. Furthermore, a device on Emirates' planes limits the number of calls that can be made simultaneously in an effort to minimize noise, though upcoming FAA regulations and how individual airlines decide to handle cellphone use could change how this system works.
However, such a device may not be necessary as the relatively high cost of on-board cellphone calls (typically starting at $1.20 per minute) may prevent many passengers from even picking up the phone, let alone engaging in loud, prolonged, disruptive phone conversations that many seem to be worried about.