Why airlines won’t let you talk while flying

For many business leaders not being able to use your mobile phone while flying is annoying, but for one Macquarie executive it was reportedly too much.

A few weeks ago (May 22), Alan James was ordered off a plane for “disruptive behaviour” when asked to turn off his phone in Los Angeles, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, and wasn’t allowed back on for 24 hours.

It’s an infuriating rule for executives with so little time to spare. There are five reasons for the airline’s decision, which we report below.

However, these look pretty thin in the light of Virgin Atlantic’s announcement earlier this year that it would be the first British airline to allow mobile calls on flights.

1.      They’re not sure it’s 100% safe

A BBC report stated that, “most of the evidence is circumstantial and anecdotal. There is no absolute proof mobile phones are hazardous.” This is a view repeated in many other articles.

However, not everyone agrees.

In the same article, Dan Hawkes of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says “there’s an industry consensus, throughout the world, that mobile phones are a potential hazard to aircraft and must be switched off.”

As many people know, one phone call is not going to send the plane into ground. But the airlines aren’t going to risk it.

2.      It’s annoying for other customers

Many people don’t want to be bothered while in the close quarters of an airplane cabin.

US telecommunications company AT&T suggested in 2008 that the restrictions should remain in place in the interests of reducing nuisance to other passengers by someone talking loudly on a phone next to them.

In addition, a study by flight comparison site Skyscanner this year revealed that 86% of people do not want mobile phone use to be permitted on planes due to it being annoying.

3.      It costs the airline revenue

Most airlines already have in-flight phone services available for a fee. For example, on certain Qantas flights you can use their in-flight phones for US$1.90 per text or US$5.00 per minute for calls.

Allowing mobile phones on aircrafts removes the need for these services, and cuts off a potential source of profits for the airline.

4.      It costs telecommunications companies time and money

When phones look for signals in the air, their search hits a number of different reception towers at once. This creates a problem with roaming agreements, and providers don’t see enough demand to figure it all out. Airlines themselves might not care about this, but it’s another hurdle nonetheless.

5.      A safety issue

During an emergency, instead of paying attention to the flight crew’s instructions, people would be calling up their friends and families in panic.

The flight crew would rather keep everyone as calm as possible rather than being distracted, which could endanger more lives.

As more and more airlines open up to the idea, it’s not impossible that using a mobile will be allowed on Australian flights in the future, and frustrating incident’s such as that faced by Alan James will be a thing of the past.


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