This piece in AllThingsD caught my eye today. Emirates, who have long been the tech-lover’s airline of choice, are now allowing passengers to use their mobile phones in-flight on all routes that don’t pass within 250 miles of America.
I actually know the reasons for this following some research I did for another piece. The FAA, who look after US airspace, have woefully draconian rules when it comes to approving cellular devices for use in-flight. Specifically, each device must be tested individually on empty flights, across every model of plane the airline has in it’s fleet. With large carriers like American Airlines rocking eleven models of airplane and literally hundreds of phones on the market, this kind of testing is clearly impossible.
Feelings are unsurprisingly mixed with regards to people being allowed to natter on the phone in-flight. It’s annoying enough when it happens on a train or bus, but at least you can change seats or just get off in those cases. The relaxation of rules will, of course, impact Economy fliers the most. Business and First Class flyers often have some kind of barrier separating them from their neighbours, and chunkier, noise-cancelling headphones. Also, generalising somewhat, those in Business and First tend to be frequent flyers and so would be better versed in flight etiquette (i.e. don’t piss off those around you).
As a frequent flyer who doesn’t have the cash to stump up for Business Class tickets every time, the thought of being trapped next to someone having a hilarious conversation with their bestie throughout the entire flight terrifies me.
“Quiet carriages” are a regular occurrence in the UK, where one carriage is reserved for those who don’t want to listen to music, talk on their phone or play Angry Birds. I can’t see the same approach working on airlines, as the already-cash-strapped carriers would have to lose another row of seats to build a sound-absorbing bulkhead to separate those who want to make a racket.
Banning mobile use during “night time” on flights (i.e. after dinner when they turn the lights out and only those of us that want to drink stay awake) would seem like a sensible option. Another option would be limiting the number of minutes each passenger is allowed – although I’m not sure how that would work from a technical standpoint.
I applaud Emirates for listening to science, however this pans out, the one thing I’m sure of is that the first time someone in my close proximity starts talking on the phone in-flight, I’m going to want to rip their teeth out.