Yakking at 35,000 feet?

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November 22, 2013, 8:03 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Logan International Airport, Boston) Just days after the Federal Aviation Administration allowed use of many portable electronic devices throughout all phases of flight, the Federal Communications Commission is opening a proceeding to allow cell phone voice calls above 10,000 feet.

But virtually every passenger interviewed here at Logan Friday hated the idea. "I think that’s really rude, and I don’t think it should be allowed," said Rachel Pitot of Quincy, Mass., Logan Halverson of Seattle, a student at a school in Winchendon, Mass., said, "I think the airplane should be treated like a library." "Horrible," "bad idea," and most of all, "annoying" were the most common comments.

The FCC is set to open the proceeding Dec. 12 on allowing voice calls in flight. FAA administrator Michael Huerta said based on studies that led to allowing use of portable electronics – except for cellular network Internet access below 10,000 feet – there’s no fear voice calls could disrupt avionics. "The policy that we put out today strikes the appropriate balance between responding to what customers want, but first and foremost, ensuring we have a safe environment."

It’s also, however, striking a nerve with passengers like Rachel Pitot, who fear losing one of the last cell phone free zones in life. "It's one of the few times that we're actually allowed to disconnect from everything and just shut things down," Pitot said. "I just think you should be able to have at least a two-hour flight where there are screaming children, but no annoying people next to you on the cell phone."

Roslyn Murov of Boston said she’s worried about how many people would agree to common-sense common-courtesy limits on calling in flight. "It's nice to have it accessible if people have something they need to talk about -- but not to just carry on a long conversation that might disturb their neighbors," Murov said.

Notably, all the FCC is considering is lifting a 22-year-old ban on cell phone calls in flight. It would still be up to individual airlines to install the necessary air-to-ground transmitter-receivers for calls, or to allow in-flight WiFi services like GoGo to make voice-over-WiFi allowed during flight.

One of the most influential groups opposing the change are flight attendants’ unions, who are worried about everything from how to get yakking passengers attention quickly during a sudden emergency to breaking up "air rage" fights over loud, annoying, or protracted conversations.

"Passengers do not want that," said Veda Shook of the Association of Flight Attendants/Communications Workers of America. "Passengers do not want the cell phones, and I can promise you, flight attendants don't either."

With videographer John E. Stuart and video editor Lauren Kleciak

Tags: Boston, Peter Howe, FAA, FCC, federal aviation administration, Boston Logan International Airport, federal communications commission, cell phones on plnaes
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