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In-Flight Phone Calls? Flight Attendants Say 'No'

Hard on the heels of the FCC's announcement that it would consider allowing the use of cell phones in flight, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) has voiced its collective opinion on the matter: a resounding "No."

According to the AFA's statement:

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AFA opposes any changes that would allow in-flight voice calls. Flight Attendants, as first responders and the last line of defense in our nation's aviation system, understand the importance of maintaining a calm cabin environment. Any situation that is loud, divisive, and possibly disruptive is not only unwelcome but also unsafe. Many polls and surveys conducted over the years find that a vast majority of the traveling public wants to keep the ban on voice calls in the aircraft cabin. In far too many operational scenarios, passengers making phone calls could extend beyond a mere nuisance, creating negative effects on aviation safety and security that are great and far too risky.

Besides potential passenger conflicts, Flight Attendants also are concerned that in emergencies, cell phone use would drown out announcements and distract from life-saving instructions from the crew.

Although the AFA concerns make a passing reference to the prospect of a planeload of chattering sociopaths that many if not most flyers fear, their key point focuses on safety: the undeniable fact that unfettered phone use would be a distraction and detract from flight attendants' ability to enact safety procedures in the event of an emergency.

Which raises the question: Whose interests are being served by lifting the restrictions on cell phone use in flight? In announcing its openness to reevaluating the current mobile communications restrictions, the FCC's chairman, Tom Wheeler, enthused as follows: "Today, we circulated a proposal to expand consumer access and choice for in-flight mobile broadband. Modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably, and the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues, the FAA, and the airline industry on this review of new mobile opportunities for consumers."

It's undoubtedly true that the technical limitations on inflight cell use have been superseded by advances in technology. But there is simply no widespread consumer plea for the "access" and "choice" Wheeler mentions. On the contrary, all indications are that flyers themselves are unanimously opposed to having the already-stressful travel experience further disrupted by the cacophonous din of a hundred simultaneous phone conversations.

Add to that the safety-related concerns of the flight attendants and it would seem that pursuing the matter is a waste of the FCC's resources, and a perverse use of taxpayers' money.

What is the FCC thinking?

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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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