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Winging It: Allow cell-phone calls in flight? No way!

Let me clarify this first: I am not opposed to using a smart phone or a laptop to check e-mail or search the Internet while cruising in an airliner at 35,000 feet.

Let me clarify this first: I am not opposed to using a smart phone or a laptop to check e-mail or search the Internet while cruising in an airliner at 35,000 feet.

I haven't done it myself only because I've not been on one of the limited number of domestic flights on which the service was offered.

But talking on a cell phone during a flight is a completely different matter.

In my Dec. 14 column, I asked what you thought of lobbying aimed at keeping Congress from passing legislation that would strengthen the ban on voice calls in this country. The campaign is funded by vendors of in-flight calling services now in use overseas.

About 100 readers have e-mailed or phoned me with their thoughts. Not a single one thought it a good idea to change the rule against voice calls.

When I posed the same question in a column earlier this year, about 60 readers responded, with three saying it would be OK.

These are intriguing results. The call for your opinions wasn't a random sampling of airline customers, of course, and newspaper readers tend to be older than the population as a whole.

Still, I believe your strong opinions are held by the majority of air travelers, who already feel abused by indifferent service on some carriers and are tired of hearing cell-phone chatter wherever they go.

Here are some samples of the messages I received:

"I step on a plane and either work or sleep (usually the latter), and the last thing I want is someone talking on a phone next to me or anywhere around me," said Dave Kravitt, a sales and marketing executive from Blue Bell. "I know I am guilty of speaking in a louder tone whenever I speak on my cell phone and I think that is fairly universal. . . . I envision myself as the Japanese soldier in the movie Airplane who chose suicide rather than listen to the ramblings of the person next to him."

Lindsay Liss, 22, a Northeast Philadelphia resident who recently graduated from Temple University, spoke for at least some of her age group when she wrote that even on short trips using public transportation, "I have encountered a lack of etiquette with regard to cell-phone use. Imagine being confined in an airplane for a long time with someone speaking loudly during the entire period."

Elayne Aion of Glenside asked me to "please continue to speak up for those who are really annoyed by people talking on their phones whenever and wherever they choose. They'll just have to realize they're not all that important and the world will continue to rotate on its axis without them for the length of the flight."

Keith Fatula, another Philadelphian, who said he spends 60 percent of his work days traveling, said that while "I could benefit from it because I could get more work done, [and] stay in touch with family and friends, in reality I think it is too much. We all complain how we are accessible anymore 24/7. I look at my flights as a way to not to be 100 percent accessible and use it for 'Me Time.' "

Robert Franz of Plymouth Meeting wrote that perhaps voice calls are allowed on some foreign airlines because "in other countries people understand phone etiquette, but that does not seem to be the situation in the United States. I lose track of how many public meetings I have been at only to hear a phone ring, and naturally the person cannot find their phone for the first 10 or 15 rings."

Center City resident Liz Woy suggested a compromise should the ban on voice calls in flight be lifted. "On flights that are six hours or longer," she said, "have a designated 30 minutes of phone time midway in the trip. It's sort of like what they do at suburban swimming pools: Haul the kids out once an hour for 15 minutes so the adults can do laps."

Flourtown resident Linda Phelps proposed: "I have decided I am going to listen to every phone conversation I hear and make a comment about it - not about the person speaking on the phone, but a comment in the context of the conversation. It might be in the form of a question or a suggestion - just something that allows the talker to know that I know his/her business. Maybe that will be a polite way of telling them too much is too much."

"I think it is recognized that many/most take advantage of our freedoms to carelessly impose themselves on the lives of others, i.e. loud phone conversations," said Wendy Earle of Kulpsville. "There are enough meek/polite people who will suffer in silence and need to be protected.

"I promise you and the flying public that the first time someone next to me embarks on one of those calls, I will feel the need to call my mother and VERY LOUDLY tell her about the conversation that person is having, including the details of his/her conversation. We'll see who has more rage."