Atlanta Business Chronicle: Americans and Lamar agree: No cell phone calls on airlines

Posted on March 6, 2014

By David Allison, Editor-Atlanta Business Chronicle

We Americans love our mobile phones. We can't hardly put them down. We talk in our cars, in our homes, walking down the street, in between bites of food in restaurants, working out at the gym. Seemingly everywhere.

But apparently, we also almost unanimously agree there is one place that mobile phones should never, ever, be used. And that's on airliners.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently began asking Americans if they think airline travelers should be able to use cell phones in flight. That came after the Federal Communications Commission said it might let airlines let passengers make and receive calls on board. A panel of the U.S. House of Representatives in Februaryapproved a bill banning cell phone calls on flights.

Meanwhile, the response the DOT's gotten -- more than 1,200 comments -- has been deafening. "Flying is uncomfortable enough without adding loud, obnoxious cell phone conversations to the mix," wrote one person.

"No, No, No, a thousand times NO. I don't want to have to sit there for 4-5 hours listening to someone talking to each and every one of their family and friends," said another.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R- Tenn.) is in agreement. Alexander and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) sent a letter Thursday to the DOT in favor of prohibiting cell phone calls on commercial airline flight, calling to preserve "the last vestige of quiet in our busy skies."

"I'm glad the Department of Transportation is thinking about putting the brakes on a bad idea before it takes flight," Alexander said in a statement. "Stop and think about what we hear in airport lobbies -- babbling about last night's love life, next week's schedule, arguments with spouses -- and then imagine hearing the same thing while you're trapped in 17-inch-wide seats thousands of feet above the ground."

Alexander co-sponsored legislation in December to prohibit cell phone conversations on commercial flights.

The public comments given to DOT seem to back up a 2012 study by Delta Air Lines Inc. that found that 64 percent of its customers felt making phone calls onboard would have a negative impact on their flight experience.

However, a small number of people say they're okay with fellow travelers yacking away in the seat next to them.

"As long as there is no screaming or yelling over the cellphone, I am okay with it. WE should be able to use cellphone at 35k feet," wrote one person.

But for nearly everyone else who's responded to the DOT's survey, the answer is no.

"Please, Please, no cell phone use on airplanes. Did I say Please," said one person.

To read more of Americans' often entertaining and thoughtful comments on the hazards of in-flight cell phone use, click here.

*This article also appeared in the Nashville Business Journal.