The case for in-aircraft cell phone use

There is absolutely no technical reason for aircraft to not allow cell phone use in-flight. The only issue today is the lack of cell service at that altitude or above water, but that is a technical problem that has already been solved. Airlines like Emirates provide cell phone service on almost all their flights, with an on-board cell tower. It is tine for the airlines to get to the 21st century and make some money along the way.

We live today in a ever-more connected world. We have always-on internet on our phones and tablet devices. We want and need 24/7 access to cellular voice, text and data services. A multi-hour (14 hour flight to Tokyo anyone?) flight being cut-off from the world is unacceptable to most and is taken in with gritted teeth. For executives and businessmen, not just your teenage Facebook junkie suffering from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), loss of access is really not the best situation.

Airlines are working hard to add internet service to their flights. They see it as a source of revenue and a differentiator from airlines that do not offer WiFi. I believe they are making a big mistake. For one, they are mostly installing ground based internet service (the US based airlines, I mean) and not satellite based service. While this is cheaper, it only offers service when over the mainland US of A. Nothing over the oceans or other countries. Secondly, I think they ar just missing the mark my not going with cellular service. They can make more money charging for ‘roaming’ voice and data services and use the same cellular network to provide WiFi for customers just looking for internet access.

As airlines strive to make air travel more comfortable (US Airways not included) and add premium economy and high priced First Class Suites, cellular service is something that everyone knows and wants. I may not be willing t pay for turn-down service in First Class, but I will certainly pay to call or FaceTime my family from somewhere over Greenland.

It is time.

Do you agree with me? Leave a comment.

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  1. I agree it should be permitted but with limits for voice calls as no one wants to listen to someone chat for an 4,8, or even 12 hour flight. So maybe the 1st 30 mins. after take off and the last 30 mins. prior to touchdown. Data or text could be allowed during the flight as long as the device was in silent mode. So allow it but limitations on it.

  2. Maybe the airlines are trying to come with a plausible excuse so they can charge a fee to use cell phones onboard.

  3. No way in hell do I want to listen to anyone next to me or within 5 rows of me talk for an entire flight. Flying is the last place on the planet cell phones are not allowed (or one of the last places). Not to mention people tend to have a habit of talking louder the farther away from the person they are. If you’re sitting next to someone you speak with an inside voice. If the person is 35k below you + cabin noise it’s going to be horrible and I’ll fly whatever airlines don’t permit phones in flight.

  4. So now something else to be a bother on the plane…if: unhappy airline staff, TSA abuse, damaged bags, filthy planes, and already inconsiderate passengers are not enough now we have to listen to your cell phone conversations? thanks.

  5. Perhaps would be acceptable if there is a location on the plane were people can go to make a call and not disturb others. Rules will be needed otherwise arguments will breakout. Not so good at 40k ft.

  6. @Mikey, Airlines will certainly get a cut from the cell phone companies. Cell phone use on Emirates is not cheap. I am sure they make $ out of it.

    @UNHBuzzard, Some trains have a ‘quiet car’. Maybe airlines can have a quiet section.


    I’m already tired of being forced to overhear others’ largely inane and too loud unilateral conversations everywhere else. It’s not as if I can go somewhere else and avoid it while in flight.

    If this ever comes to pass, I look for some airlines to not allow it and market themselves as a last bastion of at least some peace and quiet in the skies.

  8. PLEASE, “no” talking on cell phones on aircraft. I travel each week 4000 miles. This is the ONLY time I can rest, read, etc. Allowance of cell phone use while in flight will be the worst experience for about EVERY traveler. Can we all simply put down the phone for a while in our lives? At restaurant recently, 4 family members, EACH on a cell phone while waiting on food to arrive. Really? How sad.

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