Opinion: Voice calls on planes pose threat to aircraft cabin

Elaina Sauber

Elaina Sauber

Elaina Sauber is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

When I tell people I don’t have a smartphone, they usually give me a mixed expression of confusion and horror before the inevitable, “But, why?” At first, it was simply out of my price range. However, the pool of non-smartphone users continued to evaporate over time, and I’ve come to avoid the transition now out of principle — not because I have anything against smartphones, but because I don’t feel the need to be connected to the world constantly. And yet, hell hath no fury like an iPhone owner with 1-percent battery remaining.

I hate to give the insufferable technology-is-taking-over-speech because technology is not the cause of the problem but merely a means to our ultimate goal of staying connected. Humans are social creatures who fear isolation, and as we develop more ways to stay linked with the world through a perpetual Internet connection, we have advanced global communication like never before. However, we often connect with the world this way in place of the interpersonal connections we make with those directly around us because it makes us comfortable to have a distraction—no longer must we deal with personal, day-to-day interactions because we’re all absorbed in the same, collective pool of communication.

But like all good things that come with technology, there comes a point where we must realize just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. Take, for instance, the Federal Communications Commission, which said last Thursday that “it would consider changing its rules to permit the use of cellphones and other wireless-data devices during airline flights” despite the fact that “several airlines already provide in-flight Wi-Fi service, enabling passengers to use the Internet, email and text messaging,” according to the New York Times. If the rules are changed, however, airlines will not be required to provide the service

Likewise, the Association of Flight Attendants viewed the potential change as both disruptive and unsafe, saying, “Flight attendants, as first responders and the last line of defense in our nation’s aviation system, understand the importance of maintaining a calm cabin environment.” The union added that many surveys conducted over time found that “a vast majority of the traveling public wants to keep the ban on voice calls in the aircraft cabin.”

I’ve been on various flights ranging in duration from less than an hour to almost eight hours, and regardless of the ability to deliver safe, mobile phone service during a flight, actually doing so would prove highly irritating for other passengers, and create an environment for angry or violent outbursts. Everyone who pays to sit in a highly pressurized, metal tube for several hours with 100 other people who don’t want to be there is expected to be respectful of fellow passengers—the intolerable phone-talker will be just as annoying as the guy refusing to move the back of his seat forward to spare your knees, or the woman who doesn’t cover her sneezes. Just because we have the ability to have voice calls on planes doesn’t mean we should; after all, what’s the point of being perpetually plugged into the world if it’s a burden to everyone around you?