Skip to main content

Phone calls on planes? Please, no!

By Benét J. Wilson
November 22, 2013 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
If you can get a 300-ton hunk of iron and aluminum into the sky, surely you can figure out a way for us to use our phones too?
If you can get a 300-ton hunk of iron and aluminum into the sky, surely you can figure out a way for us to use our phones too?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FCC is considering rules to allow the use of cell phone during flights
  • Benet Wilson: Letting passengers talk nonstop would be like being stuck in hell
  • She says the airplane is one of the few places where one can have some quiet
  • Wilson: There's no need to ruin anyone's flight with endless cellphone chatter

Editor's note: Benét J. Wilson is an aviation and travel journalist. She blogs at AviationQueen.com and has worked for two airlines and an aircraft engine manufacturer.

(CNN) -- As a long-time aviation journalist and regular traveler, I've been following the debate on whether the use of cell phones and other wireless devices should be allowed on airplanes.

And now that the Federal Communications Commission has said it will weigh in on the matter, let me add my voice to the growing chorus of those who are firmly opposed to the idea.

Letting passengers talk nonstop during flights would be like being stuck in hell.

Benét J. Wilson
Benét J. Wilson

Let me explain. I'm a working mother who is a student pilot and active in several professional and church activities. The airplane is one of the few places on (or over the) earth where I can sit quietly and not worry about answering or making phone calls.

In-flight calls: To talk or not to talk?

Yes, I have used airline WiFi to sneak in some work or surf the Internet, but mostly I put on my noise-canceling headphones and relax as much as one can on a commercial coach flight.

But all that peace would be ruined if cell phones were allowed to be used on planes. Could you imagine the cacophony of chatter you would hear on a Baltimore-to-Chicago flight? I can, because I've heard it already.

I used to take the Amtrak Acela train between Baltimore and New York City pretty regularly. On those rare occasions when I couldn't get a seat in the Quiet Car, it was sheer hell, even with headphones. I heard privileged conversations that would get lawyers fired. I listened to talk that wasn't fit for children under 17. I was forced to eavesdrop on people discussing personal, private matters -- all done in normal tones. And people didn't hesitate in trying to have their loud conversations even in the Quiet Car.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

Why can't you use your phone on a plane?
Cell phones take flight

So sit back, close your eyes, and imagine hearing all those conversations trapped in a high-speed metal tube flying between Washington and San Francisco, or New York to Paris. How many hours is that? Do you really want to hear the chatter of people sitting right next to you or 15 feet away? Even if the talks are muffled through your noise-canceling headphones, that doesn't make it any better. What if you just want to sleep through the flight? Or take a respite from the always-on connected life you have on the ground?

Travelers already get a sense of what this sounds like when a plane lands. You hear the chirps and beeps of phones turning on and snippets of conversation starting before the aircraft wheels have even touched the ground.

"YES, MOM, WE JUST LANDED." "I'LL MEET YOU AT BAGGAGE CLAIM 12. NO CLAIM 12! I'M HERE! WHERE'S THE PARTY?"

If I still haven't convinced you, then consider the flight crews who will be forced to referee any cell phone disputes. Despite what travelers may think, flight attendants are not there to help you with your bags or serve you drinks. They are actually there to ensure your safety on your flight. Safety could be compromised if flight attendants are too busy refereeing -- or not -- people who are fighting about loud conversations all around them.

Passengers are already on edge these days as civility in travel seems to have diminished greatly. Allowing the use of cell phones on flights will push us all closer to the cliff of our sanity.

So here's hoping the airlines and related aviation groups fire up their public relations machines to squash this idea and instead, urge the FCC to continue the inflight cell phone ban.

And travelers -- enjoy the down time. Listen to a podcast. Enjoy some music. Watch an in-flight movie. Play a game. The calls will be waiting for you when you land.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Benét J. Wilson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT