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Cell Phone Usage In-Flight

by Lux Joseph 14. December 2013

Each and every day technology is evolving and improving as the tech world discovers new and improved ways to help us live our daily lives with the use of technology. Twenty years ago the form of communication was primarily US Mail, home telephones, and in some places, dial-up internet. Today consumers all around the world are communicating via cell phone, high speed internet, mobile hotspots, tablets, etc. to share their stories, build their companies, and build relationships. But how much of your time is spent on your cell phone instead of conversing with the person beside you? Are you able to spend two hours without access to making a phone call? Some consumers say yes while others say no. This topic was introduced after a recent vote by the Federal Communications Commission to consider lifting its ban on in-flight cell phone use.

Technology will continue to improve and enhance as new things are discovered and as time goes on. For years travelers have been aware of the rules and stipulations of cell phone use during flight. As travelers board their departure flight they hurry to make that last minute phone call to a loved one, finish up a business proposal, or follow up on something they forgot before the announcement “At this time, we request that all mobile phones, pagers, radios and remote controlled toys be turned off for the full duration of the flight, as these items might interfere with the navigational and communication equipment on this aircraft.” Many travelers thought it was a way to reduce the number of distractions on the plane and reduce the nuisance to other passengers caused by someone talking on a mobile phone near them. With the recent news from the FCC that doesn’t appear to be the case, but it is the reason that many customers wish the FAA to ban in-flight calls. New technology has developed and cell phone calls in-flight no longer create an interference with cell towers on the ground. From a medical escort perspective, this would allow our nurses to have 24/7 contact with our operations center and medical director while in-flight. However, we must also recognize the anxieties and stressors of flight that exist for many patients and how having other passengers around a patient talking on the phone may add to this stress level.

With every decision there are positive and negative results for all parties involved. As I just mentioned, this new technology would allow our medical escorts to have access to our medical director and operations team 24/7, but if we look at the statistics of our transports this positive change may not be strong enough to outweigh the negative effects that this policy will create for our patients. According to the FCC website, the role of the Federal Communications Commission is: The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States' primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation” ( The vote that was made by the FCC was true to their responsibilities and role within our country, but it will still take months before they are able to lift the ban. After that it will be in the hands of the FAA who will make a decision as to how this vote will affect commercial airlines and whether it will be up to the airline to decide or become an established policy in which all carriers will need to abide by.

When we transport passengers, it is primarily always in business class or first class unless the medical recommendation from their physician states otherwise or if the patient is able to tolerate a flight in economy class due to the remote location in which they are going to. Many airports throughout the USA and around the world are small and limit the airplane size that can land. This limits the cabin possibilities among carriers and many times only economy class seating is available on the small aircraft. In economy class the passengers are confined to a small personal space. If you are lucky to be able to choose an aisle or window seat you may be able to sit more comfortably then if you are stuck in the middle and confined to Boeing’s standard seat width of 17.5”. Boeing has patented what they call the Personal Space Model, a formula that accounts for seat pitch, width, and similar quantifiable measurements, along with more subjective elements of passenger perception of space. But even their Personal Space Model isn’t going to help when you have a person on each side of you conversing in a telephone conversation throughout a flight. Most people when speaking on the phone are not always aware of their surroundings and how loud they sound to the peers around them. We foresee this being an issue should the FAA allow the cell-phone calls during flight. Many individuals have debated about the cost per minute in the sky being a factor to reduce the number of phone calls, but even when cost is a factor there are always consumers willing to pay.

As this story continues to develop and we see changes in the future, we will continue to follow the developments. Travel by air will always be changing in terms of equipment, technology, policies, and procedures. CME looks forward to these developments so that we can deliver our service at only the highest quality.


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