Thursday, August 24, 2006

Staying (Dis)Connected at 37,000 Feet

Some very mixed news this week about the prospects of email and cellular telephone use aboard commercial airliners. Boeing will soon cease its offering of email service and few plans are in the works to begin email service aboard domestic flights. International carriers, such as Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic, offer more options, but even they remain uncertain about developing plans to make airplanes into "hot spots," which would enable passengers to use email and cell phones aboard aircraft. The most likely and feasible change will be permitting passengers to send and receive text messages, a harmless enough concession to the demand for sky-high communication.

Evan has posted on this topic before, but I will reiterate that nothing good can come from allowing cell phone use aboard airplanes. In such a confined space, a space in which many people--not me--choose to catch up on sleep, even medium-decibel phone conversations would disturb passenger comfort and contribute to more incidents of air-rage. The problem, of course, is that certain airlines--Ryan Airlines in particular--spy an opportunity for competitive advantage, so chances are these airlines will permit cell phone use in the coming years. Let's just hope such a move backfires and inspires nostalgia for the good ol' days of high-altitude silence. Text-messaging seems like a great compromise; let's leave it at that.


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