In-Flight Cell Phone Calls, Good or Bad: The Definitive Answer

Multi-ethnic businesspeople on airplane
After the Federal Communications Commission announced last week that it would consider lifting its ban on in-flight cell phone calls, travelers and media alike began discussing, is that good thing or a bad thing?

After devoting five minutes to weighing about both sides of the issue, here's the definitive answer.

But first, let's simplify the conversation even further and recap who thinks what.

Who thinks it's a good thing:
  • Tech blog Gizmodo, which called it "very promising news"
  • Tech magazine (trend alert!) "Wired," which called the ban "epically dumb" and "our long national nightmare"
  • The models in the above photo, who really seem to be enjoying that gentleman's pretend phone conversation
Who thinks it's a bad thing:
  • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler who said, "We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself."
  • The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the self-proclaimed "world's largest labor union organized by flight attendants for flight attendants," "oppose any changes that would allow in-flight voice calls" citing the need to maintain a calm cabin. (Wonder if they oppose adult beverage service too then?)
  • Responders to Skift's survey on topic, 49 percent of whom oppose lifting the ban (34 percent don't care, 16 percent supported it)
The answer:

It depends. And, yes, that is definitive.

If travelers can have phone conversations that are no louder than if they were talking to the person next to them or airlines add soundproof quiet zones to their planes, then allowing in-flight cell calls is a good thing. If travelers choose to kill time on flights with loud inane phone conversations, rather than just quietly playing Angry Birds, then it's a bad thing.

Of course, if cell phones don't get coverage once you're over 10,000 feet -- come on, we know you've tried it and not been able to get signal -- then it's not a thing at all.

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