In-flight cell phone usage should be airlines’ call

Why would Congress jump into the debate over whether people should be able to talk on their cellphones while flying on airplanes? The answer is obvious: political pandering while avoiding some of the real issues the people we send to Washington should deal with. Like the fact the country is headed for financial disaster.

A bill passed last week by a House committee seeks to ban the cellphone calls, which most of us agree would be annoying — unless they were ours. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration permitted airlines to allow passengers to email, text, surf the Internet and download data using personal electronics during takeoffs and landings. That previously was allowed only once a plane reached 10,000 feet.

However, voice calls are still prohibited. In December, the Federal Communications Commission opened a public comment period on possibly removing its long-standing ban on in-flight calls and letting the airlines decide when passengers can talk, text or surf on their mobile devices. But FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler has said his agency’s concern — appropriately we might add — is with technical interference, not being courtesy cops.

Meanwhile, an AP-GfK poll found a large majority of Americans oppose being forced to hear their neighbors’ conversations.

But if safety has been resolved, then it should be up to the airlines to decide if they want paying customers to be annoyed by people yakking throughout a flight. Most fliers already are stressed out by smaller seats, disappearing legroom, narrower aisles — the list goes on.

And while loutish behavior should be discouraged, that’s an issue for each airline and consumers to decide. It’s not one for Congress.

— Albuquerque Journal

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