Virgin Atlantic OK’s Cell Phones in Flight. FAA Still Says “No”
When Virgin Atlantic announced recently that passengers could make calls on their cell phones on VA’s Airbus A330 and Boeing 747 between London and New York, it was another wake up call to the Federal Aviation Administration to face reality..
Although cellphones can not be used during take off and landing, and the price per call is still steep (about a $1.60 per minute and twenty cents per text), the point is, as we have reported, about 100 other airlines allow and are equipped for in-flight calls.
The Huffington Post reports that Virgin will offer the service on 20 or so other planes shortly, and while the press release from service provider AeroMobile says that the service is intended for use in “exceptional situation,” who really believes that.
True, according to Huffpost, only six users will be able to use the service at one time on any given flight. But CNN noted that AeroMobile’s CEO pointed out that more than 1000 aircraft will be outfitted with the service in the next three years. He said that Lufthansa, Etihad, Turkish Airlines, SAS and Gulf Air will launch in-flight mobile systems in the months ahead.
We argued in recent articles that if cell phones were so dangerous, why allow them?
Then comes a column by Fred Tanaka who was reprimanded by the FAA .
because he took video of birds being sucked into the engine of Delta flight 1063 from New York’s JFK. The agency told Tanaka that shooting video, a Personal Electronic Device (PED) “ could have “affected the safe outcome of the flight.”
Tanaka agues, as did we, that every day, 450 million people are on 29 million aircrafts, and for sure not all of them have turned off their devices. Tanaka argues that the logical consequence of this reasoning is to collect all electronic devices, or ban them all together.
The obvious call here is not for the government to try to enforce a law that has no value, or to create more regulations, but to adopt the kind of progressive transparency and innovation that has made Silicon Valley ventures so successful and an underpinning of this country’s economy.
Why foreign airlines can and do offer this and US airlines can’t is puzzling, and bad business.
At the risk of repeating ourselves, we continue to argue that the only reason not to allow cellphone usage in flight is because it will very likely drive passengers crazy.
But, as we noted, the Bureau of Transportation’s own statistics says 48% of flyers polled in a survey said the would “definitely” or “probably” use a cellphone in flight, if it were allowed.