Just who on earth is in favour of being able to use mobile phones on aircraft?
Ask almost anyone in the travel industry and they will recoil with horror at the very thought of spending hours in a metal tube at 30,000ft being regaled with the indescribably dull minutiae of their neighbouring passengers” lives.
”I”m on the aircraft,” ”what are we having for dinner,” ”did you pay the gas bill?” ”yes, the weather”s quite good up here,” to car maintenance, DIY and vets bills ” all delivered at high octane pace and if you happen to be at the back ” just inches from your ear.
For years we have ” in the main ” dutifully switched off our mobiles as instructed ”as they could interfere with navigation equipment.” Now presumably, the boffins have come up with a way to ensure this doesn”t happen, but why the rush to use the things in-flight?
There seems to be an unstoppable momentum to this: The European Commission has been consulting for months on the issue with bodies such as the telecoms providers and organisations including the European Aviation Safety Agency to make sure that on-board equipment is fool-proof.
But leaving aside the safety aspect, which as non-experts we must surely hope is non-negotiable, what about the more human dimension to this situation?
Everyone who”s ever set foot on a train knows what it”s like to endure other people”s extraordinary detailed conversations, barked out at high-decibel volume and often at unfeasibly close proximity. And that”s just for the ten or 20 minutes that we may be on a train to work for example. How on earth is that going to translate to an Airbus A380 with up to 555 people on board trundling down to Singapore for 12 hours.
Clearly not everyone is going to take ”advantage” of the chance to rack up huge phone bills, but equally clearly, some will. People speak more loudly on the phone and if the line six miles high over Vienna en route to Hong Kong is scratchy, that”s only going to get worse.
Take London to the Far East. Most flights depart at either lunchtime or late evening. Assuming the majority of passengers are starting from the UK, at what point do cabin crew deem it a natural time to sleep and therefore impose a ban on mobile use? Or, if you are slumbering in what is apparently an extremely quiet A380 cabin, will you be startled awake by your neighbour booming into the phone about business strategy to his colleague in Singapore seven hours ahead?
And what about the emotional aspect? What if you have a row with your wife/boss/business partner? If there”s bad news ” or even good? Being told something in a confined space could have untold consequences on behaviour.
Bmi has said that it is looking at whether to allow text-only messaging, with a special voice dispensation if for example, the flight is delayed or has to divert for some reason. No problem there, but if a passenger decides to carry on talking after the moratorium, what then? It”s unfair to ask the cabin crew to mediate and could well create unnecessary tension.
The EC has come out with some vague comments about ”airline and operators [should] create the right conditions on-board aircraft to ensure that those who want to use in-flight communication services do not disturb other passengers.” Well, it”s all very well for the mandarins in Brussels to say that ” they”re not the ones in-flight who have to enforce it.
I”m not being a luddite here. I can very well see the need for some ” silent ” communication, particularly in association with laptops for work ” but incessant chatter?
What if you politely ask your neighbour to go easy on the volume only for an argument to ensue? Will it take the captain and his four stripes marching down the cabin every ten minutes to sort out the warring factions?
A survey commissioned for the Business Travel Show earlier this year found that 46% of the sample disagreed or strongly disagreed that mobile phones should be allowed ” double the 23% who agreed or strongly agreed. Is anybody in Brussels listening to that?
So where is this headlong dash into the airborne phones coming from? Years ago, airlines fitted out their aircraft with seat-back phones that proved expensive and ultimately unpopular, particularly with the carriers as they weighed so much. Are mobile phones just another gimmick or will they prove a genuine innovation?
There is of course one airline that is embracing the mobile concept with unbridled enthusiasm. Step forward ” who else? ” Ryanair, the carrier that is reported as saying it”s not concerned about noise as its cabins have never been quiet anyway. More like an Istanbul bazaar if you ask me.
Ryanair will be trialling in-flight mobiles later this year, noting that ”there will be revenue,” and is adamant that passengers want it. Asked whether the carrier would pull the service if unpopular, Ryanair straight batted a ”it will be successful,” response.
I”d like to hear from readers on this contentious issue. Am I barking up completely the wrong tree or does anyone else agree? Please send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org There are a lot of question marks in this article ” what”s your opinion?
Editor - ABTN