from the we-can-hope dept
The Times calls this a "pitfall" and says that American won't permit Internet-based phone calls. But I have trouble imagining that ban sticking. Once it becomes technologically feasible to make calls, it will be extremely difficult for airlines to enforce a no-calls rule. There's no automated way to block phone calls, and stewardesses will have a difficult time policing the activities of dozens of passengers. The only way it would work is if the caller's neighbor was willing to rat him out, and I suspect that fellow passengers are a lot more opposed to the idea of cell phones on airplanes in the abstract than they would be about an actual cell phone caller in the seat next to them. After all, cell phone calls are commonplace on buses and trains, and while they're occasionally annoying, they're no more annoying than a loud real-life conversation or a crying baby. There's no groundswell of support for banning cell phone calls on public transit, despite the fact that the annoyance factor is exactly the same. One possibility is that we'd see different airlines cater to different customers, with some airlines aggressively prohibiting airplane-based phone calls and others allowing them. My guess is that business travelers, who generate a disproportionate share of airline revenues, will find the ability to get work done on the airplane to be worth the minor inconvenience of occasionally having to listen to a neighbor's phone call, and so airlines that permit calls will be more profitable.