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Airline may let fliers use cellphones

Early next year, Singapore Airlines will begin to install technology in dozens of planes to let passengers surf the Internet and send e-mail from 35,000 feet in the air, the airline has announced. The circuitry it plans to install in at least 40 long-haul jets by 2013 would also allow passengers to make airborne cellphone calls.

But Singapore Airlines remains undecided whether to allow cellphone calls.

"As we get closer to the launch date, we will decide whether voice calling in the cabin will be activated," said James Boyd, a spokesman for Singapore Airlines. One consideration, he said, is whether passengers want to make calls in flight.

The hesitation is not surprising.

Although a handful of airlines in the Middle East and Europe allow cellphone calls during flights, federal regulators in the U.S. prohibit the practice, saying the calls may interfere with an aircraft's navigation systems.

But the problem may not be the technology. After all, Emirates airline has allowed cellphone calls since 2008. Cathay Pacific announced plans in July to let passengers use their cellphones in the plane by 2012.

A bigger issue may be that passengers and airline crews hate the idea of turning a crowded, airborne cabin into a flying phone booth.

The Federal Communications Commission considered lifting the ban in 2004, but it stopped looking into the idea after being inundated with letters, e-mails and calls in opposition.

The pending reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration includes a proposal to ban all cellphone calls on U.S. commercial planes -- except by airline crews and law enforcement.In a 2005 survey by the National Consumers League and the Association of Flight Attendants, 63 percent of airline passengers said they opposed cellphone use on planes.

The flight attendants union says the chatter would disturb passengers and make their jobs much harder. "While there is technology available now, it seems that the general public still wants the aircraft to remain cellphone free, so it's not just flight attendants who have an issue with it," said Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the group.

-- McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

How do you feel about allowing in-flight cellphone use. Would you welcome it, or would you see it as a problem. Post a comment below.

By Michael Bolden  | October 18, 2010; 9:23 AM ET
Categories:  Airlines, Aviation  
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It's bad enough listening to these loudmouth morons chatter on the subway. I couldn't imagine the torture of enduring mindless, onesided, loud conversations on an 8 hour overseas flight!! No way!!

Posted by: PepperDr | October 18, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

No, no, no, no, no! This is my vision of hell.

Posted by: jn22 | October 18, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It'd require noise cancelling headphones, if it were allowed. I'd tend to be against voice, but not sms or texting.
But, isn't VOIP allowed on flights with internet access, albeit the passenger pays for it.

Posted by: Hattrik | October 18, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Flying gets better every year. Soon you'll be able to have your TSA anal probe and then enjoy several hours of oh no she di'int while you're waiting to go to the bathroom in a small locker! Absolute heaven!

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 18, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Can you imagine being stuck next to someone who, for an hour, would be like, and then it was like, and he was like, and she was like.

I'd be, like, ready for the asylum. Or jail. Depending on whether I acted on my impulse to punch them in the face as I went insane.

Oh - there's my defense :)) And there is not a person on the planet who wouldn't understand.

Posted by: ms1234 | October 18, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

As long as the people speak in an appropriate voice level, I'm fine. It's when, not only are the cell phone users sceaming, but to whom they having the conversation with is also screaming back, thus making me hear their whole conversation, which i would rather not have forced into my ears. If said person is not sensative to toerhs or doesn't care about invading others privacy or throwing thier business personal or otherwise around a crowded plane of strangers than why should i care and not be allowed to get a BJ from my wife sitting enxt to me. if we don't care if others are looking and we want to join the 35k mile high club, as those bathrooms smell and are way to small then why can't we place a blanket around us and band till we land. BTWL I like that, and think I will start a blogging recruitment to allow us to bang on a plane

Posted by: ursofakingdumb1 | October 18, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

what a horrible idea. Can they provide an "anesthesia" option for those who can't bear to listen?

Posted by: blankspace | October 18, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

"It'd require noise cancelling headphones, if it were allowed. I'd tend to be against voice, but not sms or texting.
But, isn't VOIP allowed on flights with internet access, albeit the passenger pays for it."

Hattrik, noise cancelling headphones would do nothing to reduce noise from cell phone conversations. Noise cancelling headphones only eliminate a steady white noise type of sound, like and air conditioner or a jet engine. As for your comment about VOIP - it is not allowed. I was just on an American Airlines filght that provided wireless internet access and they specifically mentioned that video chat was prohibited.

Posted by: salanatoli | October 18, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

There's a fortune to be made for anyone who builds a cell phone headset with a sensitive directional mike AND -- most importantly -- a loud "monitor" feed of the talker's voice into the headphones.

People yell into their cellphone because they can't hear their own voice coming from the phone speakers. Give people a headset with decent monitoring (the technical term is "sidetone") and they'll quiet way down.

Posted by: vfr2dca | October 18, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

I would love it if we could use our cell phones for tethering or texting. Just not for phone calls!

Posted by: mlbuhl | October 19, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Having tolerated cell phone babblers in grocery store aisles, airport terminals, shopping malls, restaurants etc., I would go along with the proposal only if there were sound proof boothes in the aircraft such as smoking areas in a terminal. (Of course there would have to be a charge for use of the booth.) I presume it would be in use constantly. Just think, all that extra revenue for the airlines. The cell phone junkies could listen to each other and perhaps learn how moronic they sound.

Posted by: crokc71 | October 20, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

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