10 years ago, the use of a cellular connection on an airplane was strictly prohibited. Why? According to this Wall Street Journal Article, cell phone use was banned because phone signals from high altitudes would hit hundreds of cell towers, using an extraordinary amount of bandwidth in the process. However, this is now longer an issue.
Now, over 20 airlines around the world allow cellular connection during flights. To be clear, this does not mean using Wi-Fi or your phone on airplane mode. This means using a cellular connection. And with a cellular connection comes the possibility of phone calls.
If cellular connection is legal according to the corresponding governing bodies, it is up to the airline if they want to allow in-flight calls. As more and more governing bodies allow it, more and more airlines will soon have to decide if they will allow phone calls or not during flights.
People are typically not neutral on this topic. They either want phone calls to be allowed, or are very much against phone calls on an airplane. What follows is an argument for each side of the debate.
For Phone Calls
The argument for making phone calls on an airplane is pretty simple and obvious: passengers no longer are incapable of making a phone call for hours at a time. Whether it be pressing business, or more leisurely conversations, people who are in favor of in-flight calls want to to handle these things through a phone call.
Those in favor of in-flight calls note that some airlines already allow phone calls, and there have been few problems with it. An executive of Emirates, which allows phone calls, notes that it has not been a problem, because other noise on a flight reduces the noise of someone speaking on the phone.
If people keep their voices down and calls short, which some would see as a common courtesy, then phone calls during flights may be a nonissue.
Against Phone Calls
People against phone calls on airplanes fear how annoying a phone call may be. Think about the person sitting next to you on a flight talking on their phone for an hour. This would very quickly become annoying to many people. Some are worried that such annoyances could lead to more arguments and even fights during flights.
A GfK Poll indicates that many more people are against phone calls on airplanes than for them. Among respondents who flew at least four times in the past year, 78% opposed phone calls during flights. These are the people who fly often and would be affected more, and 78% represents a very strong opposition to the idea. Other results of the poll are shown below.
Some airlines have already said they will not allow phone calls even if it does become legal. Delta Air Lines, one of the major airlines in the United States, has said it will not allow phone calls because consumer feedback has indicated people are strongly against it (see Delta’s official statement here).
While both sides have valid points, I think there is a much bigger downside to having in-flight calls than upside. With advancements in Wi-Fi, passengers are becoming more and more capable of texting and emailing during flights. This is an easy way to communicate, and phone calls simply are not needed. I think the majority of passengers will be sincerely annoyed about the people around them making calls throughout the flight. Imagine experiencing the frustration of a three-hour flight delay, and then having to listen to the person next to you talk about things you have no interest in hearing about for a few hours. I applaud anyone who would not become annoyed over this scenario. While it would be nice to make a phone call during a flight, it is really not needed, especially if texting or emailing is possible. Please airlines, keep in-flight phone calls prohibited during flights.