back to article 'Disruptive, irritating' in-flight cellphone call ban mulled by US Senate

The US Senate is considering a bill that would ban in-flight cellphone calls. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) crafted the bipartisan legislation to outlaw voice calls on all commercial flights. The bill would still allow passengers to use mobile devices for texting, plus web browsing and other data …

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  1. Steve Knox

    Mobile Calling Area

    I have misgivings at enshrining a nascent social convention in federal law. However, there does need to be some mechanism to allow those who wish to talk to do so without disturbing those who do not wish to hear people talking.

    So I propose a dedicated space on airplanes for people who want to talk on their cellphones. In fact, to make it easily accessible, there should be multiple doors; say, two at the front of the plane, two over the wings, and two at the rear of the plane...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Mobile Calling Area

      What about some soundproof enclosure for each passenger.

      Something like a 1950's hairdresser dryer thing on each seat

      Alternately just let people make phone calls AND have guns on board

      1. Number6

        Re: Mobile Calling Area

        My thoughts were running along the same lines. Creative insertion of a soda can might be the last resort.

      2. TheRealRoland

        Re: Mobile Calling Area

        maxwell smart's cone of silence...

      3. R_User
        Megaphone

        Re: Mobile Calling Area

        Better yet, follow the advise of Agent 86 and use the Cone of Silence.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. codeusirae
      Joke

      Re: Mobile Calling Area

      How about they go outside, on the wing ...

    3. LarsG

      Ban them entirely

      Ban them entirely or expect an increase in the number of bodies falling out of the sky along the aircrafts flight path.

      Hard hat anyone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ban them entirely

        So if you have an aisle seat, you're going to have to get up for the twat every time he makes a phone call.

        What would be easier would be to have a law that says it's legal to punch anyone who uses a phone on a plane. And in case that person's someone you might feel guilty about punching (old ladies, pregnant women, children etc.) you should be allowed to stamp on the phone, or even better, be allowed to call or text anyone in the phone's address book and say what you want to them.

        I realise this may not work well in practice.

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: Ban them entirely

          To be fair many planes have had phones on a lot of seats for a long time, they have just been $10 a minute to use which pretty much cut out the random shouting of mcdonalds orders. Just allow texting and require phones to be on vibrate.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Odd coming from Feinstein

    That's precious time when people could be making phone calls for her friends in the NSA to tap.

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. Mr Fuzzy
    WTF?

    Quick, inappropriately enshrine some more things in law!

    No farting on the bus. No belching in the pub.

    Has a megajoule glare from a purse-mouthed old woman lost all power?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Quick, inappropriately enshrine some more things in law!

      Not only has it lost its power, but it is likely to result in bodily harm to the old women.

      Rules of courtesy become law because people are too damn stupid, selfish and down-right mean to care about harming other people.

      That's why. ------------------------------------------------->>

  5. real_alias
    Pint

    High flying irony!

    Courtesy legislation? From the US Congress?

    Beer - because I need one now...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy fix

    Permit in-flight data, but for voice communications go back to the way that it was in the late '80s and early '90s and re-install airphones in every seat.

    If something truly important happens that absolutely requires that you make that phone call, swipe your card and spend the $4.95/minute to make it. Otherwise, wait until the flight is back on the ground to use your mobile or email the people you need to contact and pass your messages to them in silence.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Easy fix

      If you allow data but don't have a ban on calling, people could still Skype, Facetime, etc.

      In fact, they're virtually certain to use that as I'm sure if they install a microcell on the airplane so that phones can operate beyond wifi it'll be just as pricey as the old Airphones hardly anyone ever used unless they were on an expense account.

      1. Number6

        Re: Easy fix

        Charge $$$ for voice calling, and introduce significant latency for data[*]. That ought to allow web browsing but make speech near-impossible. Hopefully only those on expense accounts and flying in the posh seats up front would be using voice calling, leaving the rest of us crowded in the back in relative peace.

        [*] There's a chance that if it's satellite-based, there's already a significant latency, about 230ms out to a geostationary satellite and back plus whatever other processing time is required.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Easy fix

          "[*] There's a chance that if it's satellite-based, there's already a significant latency, about 230ms out to a geostationary satellite and back plus whatever other processing time is required."

          People can be patient enough to wait on the lag of a voice conversation. Sat phones are sometimes used in the news for video transmissions in remote locations where better equipment isn't available, so people are getting used to the idea of a laggy conversation.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Easy fix

            The lag is only an issue if the person involved in a conversation is responding to what the other person is saying.

            For the sort of person that is going to talk on a cell phone for the length of a flight, listening to somebody on the other end is unlikely to be a major concern.

        2. Michael Habel Silver badge

          Re: Easy fix

          leaving the rest of us crowded in the back in relative peace.

          So that I can get a better aural experience of hearing your Brat whine all the across the Atlantic... I'll make ya a deal I chuck my Phone over the wing if you do the same with your little "Nuisance".. Deal?!

      2. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Easy fix

        If you allow data but don't have a ban on calling, people could still Skype, Facetime, etc.

        DAMNED STRAIGHT!!

    2. tony
      Happy

      Re: Easy fix

      "spend the $4.95/minute to make it"

      I can already see the frowny faces of people holding their $2000+ phone bill their child ran up phoning their friend to gloat over spending $1000 on in app purchases to get the ultra deluxe Smurf apartment, recharges energy 5% faster.

      Wont somebody think of the children!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's sad here is, just like many laws in the US, some law has to be created to (try and) stop people from being inconsiderate or plain (plane) stupid. I hate the fact that the moron next to me feels that he is so important that he needs to check in or micromanage waaaaay to often than needed.

    Hey hoss, the world goes on without you.you are NOT as important as you think you are, not even by half.

    And what happens if they choose not to agree? Seriously, some little fish complains about some idiot fish with more clout? Money talks. That's what.

    I can see how this ends. People with money will be allowed to blab all they want but let someone check on their sick mom and......

  8. Hud Dunlap
    Joke

    So are they going to outlaw the screaming kids on the plane?

    Here's hoping.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So are they going to outlaw the screaming kids on the plane?

      No, but they should just use duct tape on them though. They won't be kicking seats, screaming or anything else. Better yet, make the parents sit in front of their kids. I'd encourage the kid to kick the seat.

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: So are they going to outlaw the screaming kids on the plane?

        Isn't that what overhead lockers are for?

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: So are they going to outlaw the screaming kids on the plane?

      Paraphrasing the old adage: "Behind every great man is a great woman" - behind every screaming kid kicking the seat in front of it is an idiot parent. This "parent" (quotes intended) is usually of the kind that makes you start considering that the right to parenting should be subject to a license.

      1. Chris Parsons

        Re: So are they going to outlaw the screaming kids on the plane?

        Having chosen not to have children myself, I have always thought there should be some sort of licence for parenting. It might even put an end to the f*ckwits who consider taking their little darlings to the pub and then ignoring them as a suitable alternative to babysitting.

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Healer, heal thyself!

    > consideration for passengers who would otherwise be subjected to the chatter of others.

    So a giant first step in that direction would be to outlaw US politicians - especially ones who appear on TV with half-arsed suggestions, opinions and comments. The ones who spend their whole terms asleep or crawling up to their rich masters sponsors - they're OK (apart from the damage they do to democracy, obv.)

    As for the "cure" for all aircraft audio annoyances? Hearos

  10. itzman

    A funny thing happened to me..

    ..onm the way to - well its not germane. I waiting for the lift..while some bloke burbled into his phone as blokes do. We got into the lift. I noticed it was lined in a delicately embossed stainless steel. I checked, yes, cold, its steel not plastic..the similarly clad doors closed, and the bloke, who had followed me in continued to talk for at least 20 seconds before stopping looking at his phone and them making a disgusted noise.

    I refrained from a full Patagonian war dance, and confined myself to saying 'surprised you got any signal inside a totally metal box' ..

    Theres the answer. conductive glass windows in the plane, and aluminium foil. No need for a law at all.

  11. Graham Marsden
    Flame

    "The bill would still allow passengers to use mobile devices for texting"

    Great, provided that the only text alert allowed is a silent-mode vibration.

    I once had the misfortune to be in the Quiet Coach of a train with some idiot who, fine, wasn't *talking* on his phone, but his text alert was the Tarzan yell. After him getting about a dozen texts in five minutes I asked him politely to turn the bloody sound off to which he replied "Oh, sorry, I didn't know it was bothering anyone..."

    1. Martin H Watson

      Re: "The bill would still allow passengers to use mobile devices for texting"

      And people who don't turn OFF the keyboard bleeps!

  12. Mahou Saru

    Or maybe...

    They treat people like considerate members of society who would be able to use their phones, but would do so in a manner that would be mindful of their fellow passengers.

    Of course pass a law that would allow cabin crew to stun gun the token obnoxious arsehole <- Being rude, noisy, shoving their chair back without being mindful of the situation etc etc etc

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Grumpy Fellow
    Pint

    This works for me

    I ride the train fairly often, and they allow cellphone use. I have found that a good way to quiet a motor-mouth is to simply show an active interest in their conversation. Open a pad of paper and start taking notes if they don't get the hint. Write down what they say and underline it for full effect. Nod your head in agreement. Toss in an occasional verbal "Amen!" for emphasis.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    enshrined in common sense

    A politician talking sense?! Something fishy, surely!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Careless Talk Costs Lives

    That WW2 slogan is very apt here. It is not only talking on phones in confined spaces that can end up cousting you or your company money, just loudly (or not) discussinb the meeting/deal that you have just done is downright dangerous. In the confines of an Aircraft? You should be ejected at the earliest opportunity.

    I overheard a conversation between two Civil Servants on a train from Manchester to Euston. They were discussing with a good deal of glee how they were going to screw the company into the ground so that they made less then $5 profit on an item costing $2000.

    I called the MD of the company who was livid. The Company withdrew from the deal. I got a bottle of Champers for my trouble and the Army lost the use of a really nice bit of kit simply because of the careless talk in a confined space.

    Since then (that was in the early 1980's) I never talk business while travelling on a train or by Air. If I could make/receive phone calls while flying, I will have no hesitation about extending that rule to include my mobile phone.

    You know it make sense.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Careless Talk Costs Lives

      Since it is difficult to tell what constitutes "careless talk", I prefer not to talk about anything at all when travelling using mass transport. It drives my wife mad, especially when I send her a text advising her that what she is at the side of me talking about is too personal/trivial/important/revealing, and that I would like her to stop talking about it - but it works! I certainly never use the phone when anyone else can hear ... and that includes when I'm at home talking to our mutual friends!

      Paranoia is a survival tactic.

  17. Soap Distant

    Really, allowing mobile phone calls on aircraft would make flying a perfect storm of fucking awfulness - as if it's not bad enough already!

    SD

  18. bigtimehustler

    Yea, you shouldn't make laws on this, it should be up to the airlines, if someone thinks they will get a competitive advantage by banning calls themselves then let them try that and the market will naturally decide by how many people choose to fly with which airline. However if no one changes their actions and all carry on talking, clearly no one really cares.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Noise cancelling headphones

    This is why you should always carry Noise canceling headphones.

    When the noisy person starts up, you pop a fresh battery in, press the button on the top, wait for the red light to come on indicating that the unit is ready, then ram the whole shebang down their gullet until the noise stops.

    You hostess has thoughtfully provided a little plastic package of "cheese" to keep their jaw open if they start biting your fingers, or just get another passenger to help - you'd be surprised how public spirited your fellow passengers can be.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Noise cancelling headphones

      Why is their discourtesy my problem?

      1. Windrose

        Re: Noise cancelling headphones

        Ever BEEN on a plane?

        Voice calls in that sonic nightmare matters not an iota. You need ANC to take out the screaming kids, snoring buffons, drunk iDrones, and nattering salespeople - sorry "stewards". Not to mention those humungous noise generators on the bloomin' wings!

        Thinking that a phonecall which most people will try once, not hear a frak of what the other say and give up, require a LAW shows that someone need upgrade their government to v2.0.

        1. dan1980

          Re: Noise cancelling headphones

          @Windrose

          While I never discount the possibility that I am just very odd, I've always though that there was a reason why mobile phone calls annoyed and distracted me so much. That was more or less confirmed by two studies; the first, conducted in 2010 at Cornell, the second in 2013 at USD.

          They're easy enough to find but the conclusion are exactly what people could tell you - having to listen to mobile phone calls is distracting in ways that ordinary, two-sided conversations (or other audible annoyances) are not.

          The proposed explanations from both groups was that the brain is automatically trying to process language and when only half a conversation is audible, the brain has to try harder.

          This has always been my assumption too - language processing often seems to happen sub, or semi-conciously, but when you hear what the Cornell researchers called a 'halfalogue', the extra work your brain is doing to try and process it brings it up to a level where your far more aware of it.

          Not that I am against a reduction of all such annoyances in planes and other confined, public spaces - trains, buses, restaurants, shops, cafes, etc... - but I, personally, find mobile phone calls to be a special type if annoyance, and it seems I am not alone in that.

          1. Martin H Watson

            Re: Noise cancelling headphones

            People talk in a different and more assertive manner on the phone as a replacement for mannerisms and body language. Also, people inadvertently speak louder if they are struggling to hear the other person, typically due to engine nose.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Noise cancelling headphones

          "Ever BEEN on a plane?"

          Yup, lots of 12 hour flights with babies running screaming relays.

          It's one of the reasons I won't fly unless I absolutely have to. (and of course the last 2 trips have been made up of ...2 6 hour legs of babies running screaming relays.)

    2. David Dawson

      Re: Noise cancelling headphones

      This is why you should always carry Noise canceling headphones.

      When the noisy person starts up, you pop a fresh battery in, press the button on the top, wait for the red light to come on indicating that the unit is ready, then ram the whole shebang down their gullet until the noise stops.

      You hostess has thoughtfully provided a little plastic package of "cheese" to keep their jaw open if they start biting your fingers, or just get another passenger to help - you'd be surprised how public spirited your fellow passengers can be.

      ----

      GENIUS!

  20. xeroks

    additional suggestion..

    If they're going to allow emailing or smsing, I strongly suggest that keybeeps should be banned. Some people just don't realise how annoying their constant keypresses are to other folks.

  21. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Execlent...

    We can't "Call" anyone, but we're free to use DATA!!!

    VoIP Anyone?! Skype is probably cheaper then the roaming rates anyway!

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Execlent...

      It would be easy to block the ports used by Skype and other VOIP apps. Also, if voice calls are banned, flight attendants could tell people that have found a way around the blocks to shut up and put their toys away. You don't want to piss off the flight staff. If you make them mad enough, they call ahead and have you met by the coppers to participate in a little chat for an hour or two.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Execlent...

        "You don't want to piss off the flight staff. If you make them mad enough, they call ahead and have you met by the coppers to participate in a little chat for an hour or two."

        It's even better than that. After that conversation you'll find that NO airline is willing to take your custom - meaning the journey home will take "rather longer than expected".

  22. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Megaphone

    You think

    on a plane is bad.

    wait until you're in hospital after getting the news you have a 100% chance of dying by new year unless you have emergency heart surgery.. and its already december.......

    And while you're trying to sleep and stay calm, the deaf old git in the bed next to you has a phone that shouts out the number being dialed, has the speaker set to max, and the ringtone set to something like the resus code the hospital uses when the patients start dying......

    Mind you, gave me a laugh when I was talking to the doc the next day about me having to sleep at the nurses station because of noisy old git, the git's phone went off and the doc thought it was the resus alarm.. git lost his phone about 10 seconds afterwards

    Shouty... for all those people who cant put their phones down or set them to silent .. ever

  23. John Tserkezis

    Oh bullshit.

    This has nothing to do with courtesy, it nips the new allowances in the bud before they're established, and then you'll NEVER get rid of them.

    Much like disallowing GPS receivers - can't have the passengers knowing where they are now can we? Or disallowing those newfangled walk-mans, can't have the passengers bopping along to that rock and roll music, when they should be watching the "safety" video that's laced with ads. Won't someone think of the sponsors??

    No, they want to nip it in the bud now, otherwise you'll let through other things, like crying whiny babies that vomit, or worse still, the adult crying whiny babies that have consumed alcohol and then vomit.

    Next thing you know plane passengers will expect to travel with lugguage - be it leather or be it around your waist.

    No, the Senate is saving us from ourselves, and we should be bloody grateful.

    1. pPPPP

      Re: Oh bullshit.

      Which airlines' safety videos are laced with ads? None that I use are.

      And how do these ads manifest themselves? Do they sponsor the oxygen masks?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Oh bullshit.

        All of them

        "Welcome to your CORPORATE SLOGAN flight, here at CORPORATE SLOGAN we take .. so list to theis CORPORATE SLOGAN safety video ... thank you for flying CORPORATE SLOGAN"

        Followed by a bunch of ads for CORPORATE SLOGAN's car hire partners

        I stopped flying United because it became like a giant game of "Simon Says". - Do you want fly the friendly skies sugar in your fly the friendly skies coffee?

  24. Grendel
    WTF?

    Freedom of Speech?

    Thought not...?

  25. Ian Bush

    Opportunity Missed

    Not the snappiest acronym for the bill. How about the "Courtesy Unto Normal TravellerS" act?

    Ian

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not every other flight number ends with 'P' for peace? and people book accordingly.

    I reckon the reason selfish people survive, is because it's the majority showing them tolerance. Stick all the wankers on a plane together they would drive each other mad.

  27. Sarev

    Commercial flight

    Of course, the Senators will be permitted to continue using their phones on their private jets, but that's because rich people are better than us therefore deserve more freedom. Yes, what the plebs need is more laws to tell them how to better to behave like the unthinking cattle they are.

  28. Dropper

    Stunned..

    Congress is suggesting a bill that would actually benefit people rather than something that hands out more corporate welfare.. astonishing..

  29. JLV Silver badge

    I call BS

    Seriously, is that the only thing congress can occupy itself with? Are there no other laws of importance?

    Look, I am the first person to dislike cell phone chatties. Yack, yack, yack.

    A law giving backing to an airline ordering a passenger to shut it off? Yes, by all means. Kinda like the laws that say bouncers are allowed to throw someone's sorry butt out of the club.

    But there is something fundamentally wrong when enforcing interpersonal courtesy is perceived to the job of the legal system.

    1. dan1980

      Re: I call BS

      @JLV

      It is a bit of a tricky situation, I'll grant you that.

      However, such a law would not be even close to unique. There are already scads of laws that exist to protect the sensibilities and peace of the public.

      What, after all, do public nudity laws aim to do except enforce "interpersonal courtesy"? It doesn't hurt anyone for someone else to walk around naked. Indeed, you have far more ability to 'just not look' at a naked person on the street than you do to 'just not listen' to a mobile phone being used in a pressurized cylinder hurtling through the air at three quarters the speed of sound.

      Free speech is tempered by the need to uphold the freedoms of those who would have to hear your speech and that is nothing new. But this proposed law is not really about free speach anyway - it's far closer to noise laws that exist in almost all communities.

      Free speech says that you can sing a song about your hatred of the government; it does not say that you can play that song at full volume outside my bedroom window.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a viable solution

    Those who insist on cellphone use, aka abuse while on board an aircraft shall ride in the cargo hold.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: There is a viable solution

      "Those who insist on cellphone use, aka abuse while on board an aircraft shall ride in the cargo hold."

      On a A380 this might be viable....

  31. Martin H Watson

    Every law we have could be replaced with good manners. Theft, murder, speeding, fraud, aggressive replies on forums etc are all bad manners.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legislate what?

    "Keeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense," said Alexander.

    Shall we amend the Constitution with a common sense clause? Do these people not have the common sense to find more useful and appropriate work?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Legislate what?

      One group's common sense may be another group's bad practice, so even that can't be relied upon.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let the airlines take care of the problem. Calls will have to route through aircraft equipment . At least one airline even charges for water, so why not make some money and charge for "talk time"? A reasonable charge might be $5/minute. That would assure you could make an emergency call but would cut down on the frivolous use. The cell phone companies could even make money on it with an additional "surcharge" on your monthly bill, similar to charges for data.

  34. Tom 13

    This all makes it sound like

    there was never any real safety issue with cell phones in the first place.

    I'm willing to grant a blanket rule against using cell phones for safety reasons. But if the cell phone or no cell phone rule is all just down to personal preference, let the airlines sort it out for themselves. If there's a competitive advantage either way they'll find it.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: This all makes it sound like

      " This all makes it sound like there was never any real safety issue with cell phones in the first place."

      There wasn't. It's interference related (it's perfectly legal to use a mobile phone under 5000 feet AGL)

      There were only 666 analogue channels, and only about 100 at most allocated to any one provider. Frequencies get reused every 3rd cell or so

      A single analogue mobile phone in use in the air blocks the channel it's using over more than one cell. At 30,000 feet that means that channle becomes blocked across doznes of cells. Have a few dozen airborne phones in use and you have a region-wide DDoS attack.

      The 9/11 passengers were able to make calls because there weren't very many of them making calls.

      GSM/CDMA phones work differently and part of that "differently" is that they won't establish a voice link with any stationary base station if they're travelling at more than about 200mph. This is a limitation of TDMA which became a virtue (but it's a real bugger if you're riding on a TGV as they approach 200mph and voice calls can get "iffy". I prefer to watch the scenery but sometimes you really do have to take calls)

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