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Cell phones take to the skies in Europe

Imagine a future in which you’re actually thankful for the drone of ambient airplane noise and where noise-canceling headphones are more valuable than legroom or even aisle seats. Because in that future, your fellow passengers are yakking on their cell phones, yelling to hear and be heard over the jet-engine din.

That’s the vision I had after reading a New York Times article about European regulators clearing the use of mobile phone and BlackBerry devices during flights. This particular scene will be limited, at least at first, to Airbus planes outfitted with the necessary equipment.

According to the article, passengers will first see the service on short-haul Airbus A318s operated by Air France. BMI, TAP, and Ryanair have also signed on.

Think I’m being too negative? Here’s a brief attempt at the bright side. It’ll be great! I’ll be able to do last-minute trip planning onboard, and catch up on those conversations I’m too busy to have on the ground. Sure beats the in-flight movie. Phew. Now back to our regularly scheduled gripe.

On the real upside for those of us who aren’t ready to embrace a louder and likely more annoying flight experience quite yet, the cost is expected to be about $2.50 per minute for calls and 50 cents for text messages, which may encourage brevity. And as of yet, there’s no sign of this coming to the U.S. anytime soon. But still, maybe it’s time to look into those noise-canceling headphones.

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