The people have spoken, but they're not talking on their cell phones during an airline flight.
Last week, I asked you to tell me what you thought of allowing passengers to use cell phones, not just on the ground but in the air, now that airlines are installing equipment that lets you check e-mail or send text messages from a phone or laptop.
I'm delighted to say that so many of you - more than 60 as of Friday afternoon - responded to my call with e-mails and phone calls, you've written most of this column for me. Out of that total, all but two said, in no uncertain terms, that you are opposed to lifting the ban on talking on cell phones in flight. Quietly using the Internet is acceptable to most of those who mentioned it.
At the moment, of course, this is a controversy only because I may be making it one. Federal regulators are not considering relaxing the cell phone rule, as the European Union has, and Congress is pondering legislation that would make the prohibition even stronger.
But whenever some airlines get the chance to collect additional revenue from customers, they are likely to take it, a point several of you made in your messages. You and I are just doing our part to warn the industry that it is a very bad idea to even contemplate caving in to those who cannot live without talking on the phone for a few hours.
Here, for the airlines' benefit, are some of your thoughts on the matter:
"I fly a lot, and allowing people to use cell phones on airplanes is horrifying. I couldn't care less about whether people can e-mail or not, but having to sit next to someone loudly chattering about their last million-dollar deal or sexual engagement (and I have had to listen to both on trains) is beyond frustrating. . . . Flying is extremely stressful, and under stress, people become short-tempered, unreasonable, and are far more likely to act out aggressively - me included. Allowing cell phones on planes is asking for disaster."
- Sandra L. Bloom, M.D.,
a stress specialist
"I can think of nothing that would make travel more unbearable than cell phone use on airplanes. People are loud, rude and inconsiderate in the terminal. It would be even worse on a plane."
- Howard Harris
"Whose cockamamie idea was it to allow cell phone use on planes? Imagine the tower-of-Babel babel and the resulting destruction of the one amenity left on flights - peace and quiet. . . . As airlines have reduced their care for passengers' comfort, I have reduced the times I fly. If airlines permit cell phone use, I will avoid flying altogether."
- Janet Veitch
"My reaction? HORRORS! Plane travel is stressful enough without the indignity of being forced to listen to others' conversations."
- Louise Johnston
"As an executive that travels extensively, I find the prospect of open phone communications in flight to be very troubling. As you point out, sitting next to an individual that is 'catching up' with lost friends during a long flight would be cruel punishment."
- Parker Smith
"We travel a lot, just recreational, but nearly go crazy in airports with all the needless chatter going on. If they ever approve using these phones in [the] air, it will be the end of our traveling days. It is enough to make me run screaming now."
- Audrey Stevens
"In the close confines of a cabin, it is very annoying to have phones ringing, and people do not talk softly on a phone, which bothers others. There is nothing important enough that you can't wait until you land. What did they do before we had them?"
- Robert B. Crippen
"We face rude people every day who talk on cell phones in restaurants, lines at the bank, and in stores, and even elevators. I can see some irate passenger starting a fight with his seat mate. I've seen people who like to look important making unnecessary cell phone calls in the oddest places. . . . I have no problem with Internet access and even text-messaging as long as the device does not ring, buzz or makes noise from the keystrokes."
- Lillian R. Wolfe
"I wish I could express this strongly to all who possess a cell phone: In crowded places, like trains, airplanes, etc., everyone has a right to their own space of privacy. No one should be allowed to violate that space with their overly loud conversation . . . I'm for banning cell phones in any public area that does not have a separate room for them."
- Paul Krzywicki
"I'd rather stick pins in my eyes for the duration of the flight than listen to 100+ people blather about too personal subjects or loudly discuss their ever-so-important jobs and selves. As far as phone-rage incidents? I'm only 5'3", 118 pounds, but I believe I would risk popping someone in the head after I couldn't take it any more."
- Wendy Earle
What more can I say? Thanks to all of you for helping me do my job.