Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cell Phones on Planes

Is any one else besides me clapping with one hand about the news that regulators have cleared European airlines for take-off to allow in-flight phoning? My other hand, of course, is clutched firmly on my cell phone.

This is not my idea of progress. Now airline passengers will be subjected to endless jabberings of their seat-mates: paramours and corporate wannabes, and anyone else who thinks they absolutely MUST connect to terra firma or else be doomed to withering on the vine. Or crying young lasses, weeping into phones over the break-up at the airport.

In fact, what will happen to all those lovely, romantic Hollywood-style good-bye airport scenes? If the conversation can continue while the plane is bumping through the atmosphere at 10,000 feet over the Dolomites, then instead of the tender kiss, the teary departure at the security checkpoint, it will simply be "Call me from the plane."

Will there soon need to be "Vols Silence" like the "Voitures Silence" on the SNCF, which brook no cell phone usage, no shrieking little darlings? Can we beg them to limit the in-flight service to just quiet text-messaging?

To be sure, there are times when I wish I could make a call in flight (Did I leave the tea kettle blistering on the stove? Did you remember to transfer the embezzled funds to that Swiss bank account?), but in general I find it unnecessary. Even more unnerving is the notion of plane-to-plane phoning, which is next: "My flight's almost empty -- I got three bulkhead seats. Cute attendant. How's yours?"

While the owners of the OnAir, the satellite service, claim that in-flight phoning rates will be expensive enough ($2.50 per minute) so that no one will likely spend a long time on the phone, I'm not holding my breath on that assumption. And I doubt that future flying phoners will hold their breath, either.

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