back to article FLIGHTMARE! Inflight cell calling debuts, dealing heavy blow to quality of life

Flying cattle class on most carriers is usually an unpleasant business but it's about to get a lot worse thanks to Gogo, which has figured out a way to let passengers make calls and texts from their mobiles while in flight. Gogo already provides in-flight Wi-Fi for flights using a network of ground stations that an aircraft …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Livinglegend


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At least the courts may be more sympathetic.

      "He never stopped talking Your Honour, 9 hours into the flight he just kept talking, it was 3am, he just kept on going so I grabbed him by the lapels opened the door and threw him out!'

      "Threw him out?"

      "Everyone on the plane clapped and cheered Sir"

      "I understand where you are coming from Son, CASE DISMISSED".

      Judge turns to the Usher "a genuine Mercy Killing if ever I saw one".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, he has to shout because he's on the window seat overlooking the wing, meaning he's right next to a VERY LOUD engine.

    3. Charles Manning

      Yawn... nothing new

      US domestic flights have had on-board credit card gobbling phones for years now. Many years ago I flew from SFO to LAX sitting next to a lawyer you talked on his phone the whole way, no doubt billing his clients for every second in the air. It was no more disruptive than sitting next to someone playing a game or watching an in-flight movie.

      Nothing new, what's the fuss?

  2. Winkypop Silver badge


    Air travel is bad enough now.

    1. BillG Silver badge

      Re: Nooooooooooooo

      Remember when there were smoking and non-smoking sections?

      How about adding a non-talking section?

      1. Pinkerton

        Re: Nooooooooooooo

        Yeah, because those quiet carriages on trains work phenomenally well!

        In one such carriage I once listened to a woman have a conversation with her father on speakerphone. Everyone heard both sides of the conversation. The woman then repeated, in best "I said/he said" fashion, pretty much the entire conversation to her partner - who was sat opposite and presumably had just listen to it first-hand too.

        There is no accounting for human stupidity. In this case, probably mine for putting up with this kind of ignorance.

        1. micheal

          Re: Nooooooooooooo

          Perhaps rather than whinging you should have wandered along to the stewards van and informed them?

          I've had many a not so personal stereo person removed from Quiet despite their protests

  3. Number6

    One hopes that those of us who can only afford cattle class will be spared because the ones who can afford the phone bill will all be closer to the front of the aircraft in the posher seats.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back to the future

    It used to be that every seat-back on an airplane had a phone in it.

    Of course no one used it, because no one wanted to pay $6 to get yelled at by their wife or boss.

    Now people pay $10 to watch cat videos and update Facebook for a 1.5 hour flight. And soon, they'll be able to get yelled at by their wives and bosses on the phone at the same time. It's amazing how far we've progressed, thanks to technology.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Picture this

    Middle seat between two 'average' 'muricans. Seat back being kicked by someone's Precious Little Adrian. Baby Skyler across the isle is screaming but Mother doesn't believe in setting boundaries for behaviour because that will stifle her natural creativity.

    You're 4 hrs into a transatlantic when the pilot announces that due to headwinds you'll be landing an hour late. You look around in horror as every single passenger simultaneously reaches into their pocket and hauls out a small black rectangle ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Picture this

      "every single passenger simultaneously reaches into their pocket and hauls out a small black rectangle ..."

      And 99% of them get the GoGo equivalent of "network busy", or get throughput similar to a 1200/75 modem, because there's no way that enough bandwidth to properly cater for that kind of thing is affordable on a routine basis.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Plane phone usage

    A mate of mine is IFE manager for a medium sized airline. A couple of decades ago he explained to me the reasoning behind the costs of in-flight phone services. They charged passengers $10 per minute but the service cost about $12 per minute from the supplier. It was a loss leader service for the airline.

    He once showed me a chart of call durations. There was a peak between 57s and 1m 03s (half the people didn't hang up quickly enough to limit the call to $10). There was another peak around 20-25m. Apart from those peaks usage was pretty flat and around zero. His analysis was that the first peak was caused by idiots who just wanted to show off to their friends and the second was made up of business people for who a $250 phone call was peanuts if it concluded a profitable deal.

    1. Daniel B.

      Re: Plane phone usage

      I was thinking along these lines as well. I remember the AirPhone era ... And I distinctly remember the LACK of usage of said phones given they were extremely expensive. I used 'em once, to tell my dad the flight was running late (thus being one of those 57s calls) and I once saw a Mexican "diputado" use it like a public payphone. Ah, Mexican taxes at work!

      I'm guessing the voice pricing on this feature will be high enough to make it as used a feature as the good ole AirPhone. Also, why bother with calls? You can already send BBM/Whatsapp/email/FB/whatever with the (failry expensive) wifi, why pay extra?

      1. Annihilator

        Re: Plane phone usage

        " I once saw a Mexican "diputado" use it like a public payphone"

        He urinated in it?

  7. Chris Miller

    Why would I need this if I have Skype*? Perhaps airlines block Skype on their in-flight WiFi service - I certainly hope so.

    * Other VoIP services are available.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The airline Norwegian offers free wifi on most of their flights.

    They have a good selection of VoD (pay per view) and you can you the connection for whatever you want.

    They don't seem to block Skype (i used it for IM) or any other VoIP.

    I never seen anybody using the free wifi for voice calls...

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Yay. VoWiFi

    Or just woeful I keep wanting to think of it.

    Mind you I also think of MS flagship database product as "Squeal Server"

  10. Jim in Phoenix

    Cell phone jammers are now the must have accessory for people who don't want to be disturbed by some idiot screaming into his phone a 40,000 feet.

    1. Daniel B.


      It doesn't work like that. The "calls" go through WiFi. Which makes me think that T-Mobile users probably could do this anyway with their "calls over wifi" feature?

      The cellphone jammer wouldn't do anything except maybe interfering with the plane itself. You crashed the plane! Good job!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But...

        The cellphone jammer wouldn't do anything except maybe interfering with the plane itself. You crashed the plane! Good job!

        You can jam WiFi too - a cheapo jammer is easy to get online.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: But...

          I was thinking the same thing. First time I get sat next to some idiot doing that, I'm searching Ebay and ordering one of these from China.

          Get one that looks like an innocent item and you can turn it on and avoid making flying any worse than it already is these days. It isn't like the flight attendants will have equipment that lets them triangulate the location of the interference.

          If it crashes the plane, well, I guess it solves the problem for everyone else in the future since they'll figure out wifi crashed the plane and that'll be that for any sort of wifi on filghts. At least I won't have died for nothing :)

  11. Khaptain Silver badge

    Public decency please

    It is not legal, nor very polite, to piss, shit or spit in public places because it really does annoy a lot of people. Everyone I know adheres to this principal.

    I consider that someone yapping on telephone is extremely annoying and I am convinced that the majority feel the same. Why are there therefore still so many fuckwits that can't or refuse to understand that is a fucking pain for anyone that doesn't want to hear it.

    Then we are going to give people the right to do that in a damned aircraft..........

    I can see the next stage though, Optional, but expensive, Phone Free zone seats...... Easyjet must be preparing their website as we speak.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Public decency please

      I consider that someone yapping on telephone is extremely annoying and I am convinced that the majority feel the same.

      Nope. I have had the displeasure of having to travel on public transport, and it seems to have become fashion to share a (lack of) musical taste via the loudspeaking facility of a mobile. The same people also seem to suffer from an IQ deficiency that leaves them unable to operate a mobile other than in speaker mode, made even more ridiculous by holding the phone in a 45 degree angle and talking to the bottom edge, thus defeating years of development in noise cancellation technology.

      So no, I'm afraid I do not share your optimism.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Public decency please

        I once sat on a bus behind a girl who insisted on playing some crappy pop-stripper's latest nasal wailing. Oh well, I thought, if you can't beat them, join them.

        I'd never played my harmonica on a bus before, but I can tell you it was one of my best performances. Now I never catch a bus without it.

        I'm thinking of taking up the trumpet next...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Public decency please

      Good idea. I'll patent that

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vote with your wallet

    E-mail the airlines and tell them that iof that do not ban the use of cellphones when on the plane, that you'll fly another airlines or take a train. No one should be subjected to the abuse of inconsiderate peope with cellphones who can't wait a few minutes until they get off the plane to play with their electronic toys.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Vote with your wallet

      Do you realize how many calls major airlines get about shitty service? All of them. They get all the phone calls. And emails and handwritten letters signed in the blood of their eldest children. What do they do? Nothing. Not a god damn thing. They might even cram some more seats in or show a Hallmark original movie next time so you're extra miserable.

      I think airlines are huge dicks taking advantage of the situation, but they've got a pretty big leg up, seeing as how they can fly and you can't. As long as they're all shitty nobody has any reason to address or even listen to customer complaints.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh goodie, more Daily Mail-esque histrionics!

    Give it a rest. Planes have had phones for years… just because it was prohibitively expensive did people not use them (often)!

    Airlines don't expect all 400 people to be using their phones at the same time, especially considering that the roaming charges will still be rather hefty, so all this whaa-whaa from The Register and others on here is totally unnecessary! Now being able to call or even just text ahead and let someone know that you are delayed is a very useful thing to have, and that's more what the airlines expect people to do.

    The technology has moved on so much that the connection will perhaps be delayed (3 second turnaround), but certainly not "HI, I'M ON A PLANE! YES, ON. A. PLANE. YES. CAN YOU HEAR ME?" bad. The micro-cell is on-board, the Ku/Ka-Band equipment connects directly to Inmarsat or other satellite providers and then bounces into the destination network.

    But then again, I've said this before several weeks/months ago…

    Yeah, yeah, downvote me…

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh goodie, more Daily Mail-esque histrionics!

      > Now being able to call or even just text ahead and let someone know that you are delayed is a very useful thing to have

      No, not really. Just follow the seven P's (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) principle and let the waiting party know your flight number in advance of your boarding it as well as, if necessary, the fact that you are actually about to board it. They can they check via the airline or airport website or a number of tools whether the flight is on time, early, late, or has crashed mid-flight, without you having to waste your time, money, and energy on notifying them of what is actually a pretty normal event in the circumstances.

  14. Don Jefe


    Now, I'm no Forbes billionaire or head of State, but I oversee my little kingdom with a fair amount of oversight, I like to know what's going on. That being said, never in over a decade has a call been so important that it couldn't wait until I was on the ground: 'There's fuck all I can do about it anyway, I'm in the sky, literally, sailing through the sky. If I could fly on my own I'd swoop down and piss on you from on high for bothering me with something I can't do anything about. That's what I'm paying you for.'</internal_dialogue>

    It's not like some creditor showed up with a $3M invoice demanding to be paid in cash, those people call first. If the office has exploded or the baby's fallen down a well then call the insurance company, or fire department or the baby extractors, anybody who isn't in the sky is a good place to start. Even if I was there I couldn't do anything about anything crazy serious, other than call the appropriate authorities. If it isn't crazy serious why are you calling?

    That's the single positive thing about flying with a mass carrier, your troubles can't fly. For just a little while nothing on the ground matters. It's nice. We do have a plane at work with an Iridium system but the whole getup is mostly for emergency parts pickup/delivery and showing off. I usually fly commercial carriers because it's orders of magnitude cheaper and I can't be pestered. I really wonder who is tied up in such poorly managed businesses that their phone calls can't wait.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Kneel

      “I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things”

    2. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Kneel

      I couldn't agree more. I worked in the private jet industry for several years and our clients used their jets as a means of arriving fresh for meeting, they would "sleep" in their aircraft..........

      Business is done on the ground between two people, face to face......... not in public.....

      Doing "business" in public is more about being seen to do business rather than actually doing business.

      1. Sherrie Ludwig

        Re: Kneel

        Mr. Jefe: May I come work for you? I don't know the industry or even the country, but you are one of the few people who seems to have a proper perspective on workday emergencies. Too many businesspeople have a God complex "the place would fall down without me". If I step into a situation where there is an irreplaceable person, I am very likely to fire that person. If I am that person, by bad luck or company layoffs, I document and/or train to ensure that I won't occaison the demise of an entire industry sector by taking a vacation day.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kneel

      "If the office has exploded or the baby's fallen down a well then call the insurance company, or fire department or the baby extractors, anybody who isn't in the sky is a good place to start."

      But what if a critical system has hung up and you're essentially the IT department, meaning you're the only one who knows how to reset the thing without it going all pear-shaped in the restart (Oh, and the guy you trained to fill in for you? Stuck in an accident...and time's ticking)?

      "If it isn't crazy serious why are you calling?"

      Because you're the last hope for whatever the situation demands. It's basically either you TALK them through a remedy or the office WILL explode. And it's a task particular to you: no fire department or policeman or whatever can help, and time's of the essence (And before you say a designee, Murphy struck and your designee's in the hospital after getting T-boned).

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Kneel

        If that's the case then everyone involved gets a great lesson in real-time problem management and a crash course redundant systems design. After the dust has settled your IT department will see a budget increase and you'll get to hire a lackey. It's all good stuff.

        People can 'what-if' any scenario, but the truth is that whatever happens isn't going to be as bad as anticipated. Things are guaranteed to fuck up when the right people aren't available, that's just the way the universe works. Instead of trying to plan for every possible contingency (a stupidly impossible task) your efforts are better spent putting together a group that can recover from the inevitable with a minimum of fuss.

        For example: Although we have redundant mains and generator power and Internet connectivity if we lose mains everyone has things to do, all the bullshit that never gets done during a busy work day. Clean out the damn employee refrigerators, clean the fish tanks, feed the fucking ducks in the pond. It doesn't matter that the office is shut down, everyone stays busy and in short order the same universe that just fucked you decides to show some mercy and allow things to get fixed easily. It's the panic of not knowing what to do that causes the problems, not the actual problem itself. Rarely are problems as bad as people think they're going to be.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Kneel

        "I really wonder who is tied up in such poorly managed businesses that their phone calls can't wait."

        He obviously had you in mind. Just out of interest, who do you work for?

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Kneel

          'Who do you work for?'

          My wife. You must be single or you would already know the answer to that question :)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kneel

      > We do have a plane at work with an Iridium system but the whole getup is mostly for emergency parts pickup/delivery and showing off.

      Assuming it's a time-shared business jet (Netjets or one of their competitors)? But anyway, what Iridium is actually useful for is for the pilots to sort out handling and clearances in the event of in-flight changes. Makes for much more efficient turnarounds, especially if the crew do their own dispatching.

      I do agree with you that use by the cargo would usually strike me as poor management and/or taste.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Kneel

        The plane is a King Air 350iER that we own outright. It has been modified with a larger cargo door, a cargo lift and expanded cargo area (we sacrificed three seats for the modifications). The cabin is nicer than it has to be, but occasionally we do have to impress and it is just a nice option on top of a plane we had to have anyway, no reason not to make the tool enjoyable :)

        It is definitely poor management to use the plane if we aren't delivering parts and engineers or picking something/somebody up. The actual operating cost for our little plane is about $2700hr with two pilots and a booze wench (she's for the engineers on their way back from a successful job). That's a lot of money, I don't care how rich you are. When we use the plane it is for show stopping emergencies that the client needs solved now, and expense really isn't the issue.

        However, if I found out the salesmen who call on us or the lawyers were flying around in private planes I would be furious. The costs of those flights are going to be directly reflected on the customers (me) bill and honestly, I'm not concerned with your comfort, I'm certainly not several thousand dollars an hour concerned... I can't help but think it would be the same if the roles were reversed.

  15. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Please Mr. Al-Qaeda, Save Us!

    There's an obvious and simple solution to all of this.

    Hire a brown skinned passenger (aka "Terrurist") to carry a cel phone filled with something that goes "Boom."

    Once the TSA nabs him you can be sure that phones will be added to the list of stuff that you aren't allowed to carry on to the plane.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obligatory Dilberqt

  17. Annihilator

    Not a "debut"

    Planes have had telephones on them for years. As for mobile service, the last Virgin Atlantic flight I took over a year ago had its own picocell which wasn't even particularly expensive - as I recall it was the same as normal roaming charges to the country you were flying to.

    I connected to it out of curiosity. Didn't make any calls through it though, just a couple of texts out of interest.

    1. David Black

      Re: Not a "debut"

      Glad soeone mentioned that, I thought I dreamt it myself. I guess the "problem" they are solving for is that the Virgin picocells aren't licensed for use in US airspace so when you get over the Atlantic, they actually switch them off which depending on routing can be 3+h before you land. Sure just fixing the licensing might be a better option.

      Great service though and my 15 second call did get my cat fed :)

  18. herman Silver badge

    Have no fear - impossible to use in practise

    I have tried to connect to airplane WiFi on multiple occations. Without fail, it was an impossible, convoluted mess and I never once managed to log in.

  19. M Gale


    So... the problem with someone making a phone call on a plane is what? That you don't get to hear the other side of the conversation?

    I could understand if this was some bell-end throwing out random techno like they've never heard of headphones, but are you expecting people to just sit in their seat and not say a word for 6, 9, 18 hours or however long they are sat there for?

    Ah yes, hating mobile phone use is fashionable. Even as most of the commentards here (and possibly even Iain Thompson) likely have something more powerful than a 5 year old PC sat in their pocket and connected to the nearest phone tower.

    1. Z80

      Re: Meh?

      "So... the problem with someone making a phone call on a plane is what? That you don't get to hear the other side of the conversation?"


      1. dan1980

        Re: Meh?


        Nice one; I always suspected as much. I get the feeling that, as we possess brains that are evolved to use language, we automatically process a lot of it semi-consciously.

        I think what happens is that when overhearing conversations in your own tongue, your brain simply processes it in the background. When you hear half a conversation, it seems that your brain increases the effort to try and understand what’s going on and, in doing so, brings it more into your conscious processing.

        With the sincere hope that this is not taken as racist, I believe the same type of thing happens when overhearing people speak a different language – it clearly sounds like speech so your brain tries to process it and, if you don’t know the language well enough, it fails and you perceive it more strongly and thus find it more distracting.

        That’s what I’ve always thought at least.

    2. Evil Graham

      Re: Meh?

      "are you expecting people to just sit in their seat and not say a word for 6, 9, 18 hours or however long they are sat there for?"

      Not expecting. Just hoping.

    3. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: Meh?

      I don't hate mobile phones any more than I hate the internal combustion engine. I hate having a car drive through my yard, or the store when I'm shopping, or anywhere else that it may be possible to physically fit an automobile, but inappropriate. It is incumbent upon those who use a given technology, whether automotive or cellular, to learn both the actual rules of the road and some common courtesy points to allow the world to function smoothly. Pulling out the phone to quietly text "reschedule the meeting, the plane is delayed" is certainly reasonable. Bloviating about the great business deal you're going to pull off when you land is only going to activate the corporate spy in me. Or, I will offer all kinds of "help" to the guy on the phone on my end. Or tell the sob sister bitching about her rotten boyfriend that she needs to go to a better class of dive if she's picking up her guys in bars. You share your convo with me, I'll share right back (grin).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh?

      > are you expecting people to just sit in their seat and not say a word for 6, 9, 18 hours or however long they are sat there for?

      YES!!!!!!!!! :-)

  20. TheRealRoland

    It's a small world...

    I'll be brushing up on old nursery rhymes and very annoying songs - and will recite them on the top of my lungs whenever somebody within earshot starts calling...

    or, if singing is no longer allowed, hum them loudly ;-)

  21. OrsonX

    At least on a train... can change seats.

    On my 1h commute I sometimes used to move up to 3 times to get away from the fucktards.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just have a pair of half decent headphones. Talk all you like I can't hear a word.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bring a pineapple

    Now, the Pineapple is something you won't leave home without.

  24. Epobirs

    This is really missing a picture of the Trigger Happy TV guy with his torso sized mobile phone.

  25. Jason Hindle

    In my experience......

    On an Emirates A380, the cost of WiFi is pretty reasonable, at least for a bit of iPad surfing. Calling OTOH is pretty prohibitive - I didn't see anyone making calls.

  26. Big_Boomer


    There is an off button on your phone. I use mine regularly. Sounds like many others need to learn to use theirs. As for flying, kids are more irritating than phone users. I once asked a woman if she would like to discipline her child (who had been kicking my seat-back for 20 minutes, despite being asked several times to desist) or if she would prefer *me* to discipline him for her. Needless to say the spineless slave to her offspring complained to the Steward and after a brief explanation, I got upgraded to 1st Class. :-) If someone is being really irritating on the phone, just put your headphones on and "LaLa" along with whatever you are listening to. if they get louder, LaLa louder. They soon either move or shut up.

  27. Frances Banana

    Flying in Europe

    As it was already mentioned - Norwegian has free WiFi onboard. Great for WhatsApp to synchronize with my beloved ones that pick me up from the airport. Other than that it's pretty useful, because I often schedule some work to be done on the airplane - with the help of my little laptop and a nice cup of coffee.

    Being in an airplane is very much different from say train travels - or not to mention regular commuting with trains, buses etc. The space available on the plane is VERY WELL defined, you are practically pinned to your seat. And today people lack self-control and culture. They are also often very selfish, loud and it seems like majority of them graduated in EXTREME ANNOYANCE. Over ;)

  28. Steve Kerr

    I'll put my hands up to using my phone (once on Virgin) on an airplane, 5 minutes, £15 as I found out when I got the bill!

    For etiquette, I did go and stand at the back by the toilets so that I wasn't in earshot/annoying anyone. Phoned a friend to joke with him that the plane was delayed though was 3 hours in really.

    I would extremely irked if someone proceeded to have a conversation sitting right next to me on the plane and would probably tell them to go somewhere else to make their call.

  29. JustWondering

    Boost for business

    I'll bet proctologists can't wait for the boost in business.

  30. codeusirae

    Always on ..

    Is it possible to book a talking or non-talking section?

    "El Reg is willing to bet that a lot of passengers aren't wild about the prospect of having some loud git shouting down their mobile phone for hours at a time."

    Why do these gits see the need to talk at such a volume that you'd think they were holding a conversation with someone on the next bus over?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019