No 'Cell Yell' on Planes, Please

The dos and don'ts of cellphone etiquette may be taken to new heights - a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.

Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission decided to seek public comment on lifting the ban on cellphones in airplanes. It looks as if outfitting planes with the equivalent of a cell tower would meet airplane safety and phone interference concerns behind the ban.

Early response to the FCC favors airplane travel as a quiet oasis rather than yack central. So far, most people oppose cellphones on planes, though devices for data transfer are OK.

Let's hope this feedback trend continues. The ubiquitous cellphone, with its name-that-tune ring and "cell-yell" owner, is a noise polluter. In many cases, a person can move away from an annoying, loud conversation. In a plane, there's no escape.

Some travelers, however, lament the productivity lost to air travel. The FCC wants to address that by improving the Internet speed on seat-back phones, which use a different spectrum from regular cellphones (seatback phones are not popular because of their high cost and poor reception).

America's passenger rail service, Amtrak, offers cell-free cars. The concept of a cell-free zone could be applied to flying, along with rules such as "vibrate" rings only. But should flight attendants have to add phone enforcement to their duties? And because a partition would probably interfere with evacuation requirements, creating a soundproof zone in a plane doesn't seem practical.

Until a workable solution is found (in-flight phone booths, perhaps?), an acceptable compromise would be what the public, so far, is suggesting: data use, fine; cell yell, no thanks.

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