SNAKES on a PLANE… better than CELL PHONES???

Cell Phones on a plane!

The next time you fly…

…how much EXTRA would you be willing to pay:

• To be able to TALK on your cell phone during the flight?

• To be able to USE THE INTERNET for limited web surfing, EMAIL, and TEXT AND INSTANT MESSAGING during the flight?


• Would you be willing to pay extra to get on a flight where NO CELL PHONE CALLS were allowed?

These are the kinds of flight options you may soon find yourself choosing between…

…because earlier this week, the European Union approved the use of cell phones on flights and presumably the same kind of rules will follow here in the US.

But is this a good thing?

Below are some PROS and CONS

…and you can also make your thoughts known by going to and voting in their online poll about cell-phone use on airplanes:


We live in a wired world…

…and for business travelers, in particular, being able to make and receive calls during a flight will be enormously helpful.

This is particularly true for air travel that occurs during normal business hours.


As a fellow passenger…

…I cringe at the thought of having to sit next to you while you LOUDLY talk, talk, talk, talk on your cell phone all the way across the country about what you had for dinner last night, your kid’s soccer game last week, your Aunt Martha’s upcoming hip replacement surgery.


Since talking on cell phones on flights is probably going to become more common…

…this might be a good time to buy some Bose stock, since Bose makes those wildly popular noise-cancelling headphones that can drown out all noise around you.


Not all cell phones will work.

For US travelers in Europe, that means you will need a quad-band GSM phone…

…which leaves Verizon and Sprint customers out altogether, and also excludes owners of GSM phones that only have US bands built in.

And yes, iPhone users…

…your phones will work on European flights, too.


In Europe, the decision to offer cell phone service is now up to each airline:

Air France is offering cell phone service on a trial basis for three months, and the decision to extend the service will be based on customer feedback

Lufthansa says it will NOT offer cell phone service, since the airline did a survey in 2006 and found that their customers overwhelmingly preferred no cell phone use on flights

Virgin Atlantic believes their customers WILL be supportive of online access to email and text messaging via their phones and Blackberries…but no voice calls on cell phones.


Hats off to the Europeans for giving each airline the right to choose which level of service to offer…

…or to offer no service at all.

This is a far better solution than to legally require ALL airlines to offer ALL available services…

…because this system allows airlines to cater to their customers as they best see fit, and it also gives consumers more options when making travel arrangements.

And now let’s hope that when it comes time for US airlines and regulators to make similar decisions about cell phones on planes…

…that they learn all the lessons they can from this European experiment.

Want to know more?

Listen to Gregg talk about this “SNAKES ON A PLANE” article at PCPitstop on radio stations nationwide, and make your thoughts known about cell phones on airplanes by taking the PCPitstop poll.

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28 thoughts on “SNAKES on a PLANE… better than CELL PHONES???”

  1. Roberto, if Europeans (all of them) use common sense — a ridiculous assertion — and Americans don’t, then it should be clear to you why we poor socially-arrested Americans are concerned! What you lack in logic you make up for in arrogance. Incidentally, where do you see the country posted?

    These people haven’t expressed paranoia; they’ve expressed genuine concerns because we’ve all experienced rudeness and lack of consideration by cell phone users — just as you are displaying by your sweeping generalization. Jeez I hate people named Roberto.

  2. I see all the answers from the paranoia of the american people. Europeans have and use common sense, something Americans don’t.
    Americans still have a long way to learn from Europeans.
    I support both (cells and internet in planes.

  3. I am concerned that a malfunction by a cheap cell phone may interfere with the airplane electronics. Don’t trust the FAA study. They cannot check for all the possible malfunctions today and especially in tomorrow’s cell phone.

  4. Absolutely not. A flight cabin is a very confined, overpopulated, highly regulated piece of real estate and we do not need any additional stress from others talking on their cell phones for hours on end.

    I am captive while on a flight. I obviously can not get off the plane, and I can’t even change seats because most flights are so filled. I have no choice regarding who sits near me. I could possibly be surrounded by many obnoxious chit chatters simultaneously. And to top it off if I complain too aggressively I may find myself charged with interfering with the duties of a flight attendant. It’s bad enough at doctors offices, rest rooms, and elevators…but at least there, it will be over quickly.

  5. While I agree with the one or two people who said there are legitimate uses for cell phones on a plane (like anywhere else) the overwhelming usage, I fear, will be MINDLESS BABBLE (like anywhere else). The cell phone has become an emotional life-support system for so many people, and in their addiction they’re inconsiderate of people around them.

    I was going to suggest a five-minute interval each hour, in which cell calls were allowed. But I’ve completely backed off that idea. It would be abused, and the abuse would be ignored, which would enrage me. Besides, many people try to sleep at all hours, given the inherent stresses and limitations of planning flights. And dammit, there’s something to be said for just relaxing and enjoying the experience of flying after all that effort. Somehow we all managed, B.C. — before cellphones!

    Gadget-oriented people are already likely to know and use IM or texting for important messages, and they’re free to make voice calls at airports. For emergencies (at least claimed) I guess I’d support the idea of a sound-proofed section on the plane with strict time limits so that others with emergencies wouldn’t have to wait for some rude moron to catch up on chit-chat. Even better than human limits might be a signal cut-off by an impartial timing device.

    If the airlines I fly allow unlimited vocal cell phone use, I will cease to be a customer, and I will tell them why. I’m glad to see so many others with similar feelings.

  6. The use of cell phones on planes should not be allowed. Some say business people can’t be away from their office. I did my own, unscientic survey while waiting in airports and a large majority, (69%)of business travelers said yes it might be beneficial but that a plane is the only place they can get away from the phone and almost 100% of them said the business traveler should plan their travel and that missing that call in a 3-4 hour flight is not as important as the downtime they have for reading, doing paperwork, etc that may or may not be work related.

  7. I don’t fly, but I would hate to think that I had to sit next to someone that went on and on during my whole flight. It is bad enough that I have to go to a store and hear people at the top of their lungs discuss anything and everything and having to wait to be checked out because the cashier can’t get their attention. I think maybe they should maybe have a special section like the smokers did. And have it sound proof so other passengers can’t hear. I bet if they got 100 passengers together speaking like they want everyone to hear their business, it would probably limit their calling even in that area. Also, all should be put on vibrate. In my working place I have to hear them ringing all day long and wonder when management is going to do something about it.

  8. People, you are going to have to realize that there are very good reasons for allowing cell phones on planes: getting in touch with someone if you are not going to be able to meet them at the airport to take them to your home, in order to warn them about that.
    Businessmen who need to stay in touch with their home offices at all times, same thing with federal agents and officials.

    The people who are saying that cell phones have absolutely no effect on airplane devices are exactly right. The FAA did a study and found out that very thing was true, but the study was buried under a bunch of red tape by the cell phone alarmists.

  9. I LOVE the idea of a special section for cell phone use…the last three rows of the plane. OR…perhaps only in middle seats. Cell phone users may not sit in Emergency Rows.

  10. follow airline employee

    I’m all for cellphones on planes… I believe they shiuld be limited to silent mode… However that makes more stress on flight attendants to regulate that.
    And right you are Phil… The only thing cell phones do to the flight coms is make an annoying buzzing noise similar to if you put your cell next to your computer speakers during a call… And it needs to be within about 10 feet to do so… Ive ridden in the cockpit while I was travilng and asked the pilots about that…
    as long as travelers are aware of their surroundings and hopefully considerate of their fellow passengers there should be no problem.

  11. I think my only defense will be to buy a boombox with some really rocking bass on it coupled with a very loud volume control.

  12. Hey wait a minute there, I thought that cell phones worked up there all ready! According to the official government story there were cell phone calls on 9/11/2001, from several flights. What is up with that? I flew to Salt Lake the last time around that time and mine didn’t. I guess it doesn’t matter. Just go along now little sheep……It has to make you question the validity of the story..

  13. We already put up with people talking on mobiles on trains and buses. Why not planes?

    Seriously business would love it. Senior business execs often hate being offline for the time a flight is in the air, so I can see many paying for the privilege. That said most of them would be happy enough if they could work using non-voice services.

  14. The one GOOD thing about air travel is that it does provide a block of semi-quiet time where I can read that novel I’ve been putting off, get a bit of work done, or catch a few ZZZZs (notice how each of these activities does not bother the person to my left or right…).
    The image of me being trapped next to someone going on for hours about the latest gossip, family argument or crisis at the office strikes me as a circle of hell that Dante would be proud of…

  15. Personal Rights

    Maybe texting but only if the tones and annoying phone noises are also not allowed. The constant tones of a texting passenger hurt my ears as well as the “received” noises many phones make when a message comes in. What the heck? It used to be quite easy to get away, forget about the phone and relax! And now? People seem to only exist if their every minute is encumbered by phone calls, games, Email, etc. I’m not a ludite but I really crave the sanity of entertaining one’s self with one’s own mind. And, of course, not having my space intruded upon!

  16. Voice calls and audible ringers should not be allowed. A plane is too cramped a space to have people loudly yakking away and ringers sounding throughout the flight. Lot’s of people like to sleep or enjoy a movie and voice calls and ringers are an intrusion on another’s personal space – just like smoking. And the idea that noise cancelling headsets, like those from Bose, Sony and others, will offer relief is dead wrong. In fact, noise cancelling headsets only cancel the low frequencies like engine noise and by doing so actually INCREASE one’s ability to hear others talking.
    The “forced civility” of a no voice call cellphone policy is a good one and I would certainly direct my business to a carrier who maintains it.

  17. shelley maruyama

    As long as our safety isn’t compromised by any of the situations mentioned, including interference with the planes guiding and communications systems, and the safety of passengers with pacemakers, I agree with Virgin Airlines, no voice option. Otherwise, I agree with Ari, a booth type area. We already have to put up with noisy people on the trains, in shops and everywhere else, because for some reason, many people seem to shout when on their mobiles, as if they want the world to hear. Long haul flights in economy class are very uncomfortable as it is. But as well as the obvious, providing a booth for such passengers, would help shorten the queues for the toilet and the drinks and snack areas on some flights! But can you imagine more scuffles to return to seats to fasten seat belts? I also worry about the extra security measures that will be needed, to prevent disaster. Simply switching on a device, is no longer foolproof.

  18. Cell phones being allowed in Airplanes, will most certainly lead to passengers fighting because of rude talkers.

  19. Werner Zuercher

    I wish that Airlines will have special sections for Cell Phone users, and they should not be the best seats please.
    I personally have no use soever for cellphones, never used one and never will
    I will be one of the ugly passengers getting very angry when passengers left and right start talking all around me. Probably will bring a CD player and crank it up so they will not be able to hear the caller to whom they talk, I am serious.

  20. If you have to have them (and it sounds like my worst nightmare…) Ari’s idea of a booth or a separate zone for compulsive yakkers (or the tiny number of genuine users)is a good one. I’ve just shared a bus with a lady describing her gynaecological and bowel disorders to a friend at the top of her voice- not nice, but at least I could get off the bus.

  21. I just wanted to say after reading the article about the european decision that I agree if the cell phone use was allowed for txt messeges or all none verbal communication .. I can not see that disturbing anyone .. I see the loud talkers really annoying many people .. at least that would be the compromise for sure .. txt messaging would not infringe on anyone …

  22. Perhaps a good solution is to build a cell phone booth on the airplane. You want to make a call? Step into the booth, shut the door, and make your call. If you’re not in a booth, stay off the phone.

  23. Dave – you lead a sheltered life. Unless one flips burgers for a living, most of us have no choice but to ride on airplanes.

  24. The average airport experience is so bad now, that this will be yet another nail in the flying “coffin”. Airlines that permit the use of mobiles may rue the day. Most passengers want a painless/stress free flight. Being sat next to, or between yaking phone users will drive them to the airlines that do not permit phone use.

  25. Kathy Blackham has been watching too much Hollywood or reading some remarkable pulp fiction. The use of cell phones will have absolutely NO bearing on aircraft safety. I think what she fears, when cutting away the alarmism, is that cell phones could act as some form of transponder to pinpoint where an aircraft is in flight. There is absolutely nothing to prevent this sort of thing happening right now if a dedicated terrorist was equipped with the correct technology – a quick visit to the toilet, turn on the transponder and stow it in the waste-paper bin.

    What is a far more logical step for aircraft safety would be to inspect all cell phones at security. How often have you been asked to turn on your laptop? “Often” is the answer to that question here in Europe. Cell phones should be similarly tested.

    Anyway I am completely opposed to the use of cell phones on aircraft but not for any safety reasons. I just do not want to be subjected to the aural abuse – I get enough of that in my everyday life without having to be stuck next to a compulsive caller in the aircraft cabin.

    Maybe airlines could consider the idea of a new cabin class. Business class, economy class and “the talking classes”!

  26. Right on Dave!! People will be rude and inconsiderate regardless of airline requests to limit cell phone useage. The best way to control cell phone use is to limit it to the terminal area or when there is a terrorist take over of the plane. Letting people say goodbye to their family due to piss poor security is the only reason I can see to support cell phone use while in flight…

  27. Dave Peace NOW!

    I don’t care about cell phones on a plane because I will NEVER fly again. I’ve seen enough of the world outside North America. Anywhere in the US or Canada I want to visit I will either ride my Harley or drive to reach. The last time I flew, after a 5 hour delay and an hour on the runway in a cramped seat, I swore that was the last time. Now if you add in cell phones, there will be fist fights on planes when other people have their personal space invaded. No thanks!

  28. To whom it may concern,
    I’m against using cell phones and telecommunication during flights. My reasons are because if we jam the airways with insignificant communication and fail to keep the aircraft and airway travel safe it would create an unsafe atmosphere for the enemy to catch any aircraft by surprise.
    Men, organizations or countries could plot against us while in the air. Sending out GPS position to others outside the aircraft. Technology is so great that position and plots against specific flights would put innocent travelers in danger. Coordinating a grand scale attack would be made that much easier with open communication for anyone in an aircraft. Terrorists are not just going to leave us alone. We should be taking steps to protect ourselves from these kinds of things. Terrorist groups care nothing about our safety. To have people of other languages and nationalities able to plot against innocent people as in 911 would be incredibly foolish. Having open access for all in the aircraft, I believe, would make every aircraft that flies across American ground or International at the mercy of any hate filled group of people. Americans can be so distracted by their toys that they forget there is a real crazy world out there. We need to be smarter and stop giving away information that could keep us safe and protected. If we jam the lines of communication with unimportant chatter and business deals on airline flights, I believe we will create very unsafe situations for flying safely in America. We need to remember the consequences of the last huge attack on America. We need to realize that many people of all opinions and ideas pass through our country every day. We need to make it easier for aircraft to be safe and think less of our petty unimportant chit chat that could wait till we safely fly to our destinations. If an aircraft is having problems I would like it if the passengers were not causing more problems by having to use precious air space. I care about my safety more than the small inconvenience of putting away the cell phone toys and getting safely to our travel destination!

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