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Virgin Atlantic Allows Cell Phone Use During Flight — WTF!?!

by Suzanne Fluhr on May 17, 2012 · 20 comments

It is reported that Virgin Atlantic Airlines is now allowing cell (mobile) phone use during flights.  Remind me never to fly on Virgin Atlantic.  It is one thing to deal with a yakking cell phone user on a train or bus.  On a train, you can move to the quiet car.  Even on a bus, you can demand to be let off if you simply cannot take it anymore.  At 36,000 feet this is simply not an option.

In a recent post, I discussed some of the annoyances faced by air travelers. These pale compared to being forced to listen to another plane passenger on their cell phone, no doubt yelling because it is difficult to hear over the sound of jet engines and with ears that feel clogged due to changes in air pressure.  Unless you have very expensive noise cancelling headphones, you will be forced to listen to Mr. or Ms. Oblivious, say all manner of things to the person on the other end of their conversation — their imaginary friend from your perspective.

  • “Guess where I am!”
  • “Could you check to see if I left the iron on.  By the way — guess where I am!”
  • “Before I left, Dino threw up.  There was plastic in it.  It’s in a paper towel in the trash.  If he does it again, maybe you should take him to the vet. Guess where I am!”
  • “I was very hurt that you did (or did not do) _________________ last night.  Guess where I am!”
  • “You have to take Mom to the doctor.  She told me that she is having diarrhea all the time.  (Fill in, minute description of diarrhea).  No I can’t take her.  Guess where I am!”

If you’re in first class, you will be treated to:

  • “I forgot to put in the note that Buffy has an orthodondist appointment at five, after her  _______________ practice.   The au pair can’t take her.  No, of course, I can’t take her.  Guess where I am!”
  • “We made a killing on that credit default swap?  Tell book-keeping that this must be deposited into our Cayman Island account immediately.  Guess where I am!”
Even worse, passengers will be able to receive calls.  So, even if they have the good sense not to want to initiate a cell phone conversation while they’re in a high altitude confined space, you could be treated to:
  • You &*^@#!  How could you?  After all the times I ______________ for you?  You are telling me this by telephone!?!  Guess where I am!”
  • No way!!   I would not donate money to that ____________’s campaign even if hell froze over!!  Don’t ever call me again!!  Guess where I am!”
If you’re in first class, you might be pulled away from your engrossing vampire book by:
  • “What do you mean the London office just lost two billion dollars on a credit default swap?  No, you don’t have to remind me that the shareholders’ meeting is on Tuesday.  What do you expect me to do about this now?  Guess where I am?”
Permitting cell phone use in airplanes at high altitude just doesn’t seem like a good idea given the seemingly increasing number of folks “losing it” on airplanes (flight attendants who forgot to take their meds, passengers who forgot to take their meds,  pilots who forgot to take their meds, and all of the above who have never even been prescribed meds).  Annoyances just seem magnified when you’re in a crowded metal tube way above the Earth. (Clearly,if God had intended us to fly, she would have given us wings.)
Virgin Atlantic claims, “The new service has undergone on board tests over the last few months and has been positively received by customers.”  When they say “customers”, do they mean the people using their cell phones, or the people around them wishing looks could kill?  Have they factored in the added security expense they will incur to hire extra air marshalls to keep the peace aloft.
And —- by the way —- I know where you are.  I’m ^%$&*#-ing sitting next to you!
Update November 22, 2013: This issue is again in the news. The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on lifting a ban that forbids the use of cell (mobile) phones for voice communication during flights. 

What do you think about in flight cell (mobile) phone voice service??  

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Beth May 18, 2012 at 12:01 am

I thoroughly agree, Suzanne! I AM scheduled to fly Virgin in August to SF, but hopefully this won’t be in place by then. You put it so well! I really enjoy reading all of your posts. They brighten my day. Keep on blogging!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer May 18, 2012 at 12:13 am

Here’s the good news. Still, no one can use a cell phone in an airplane within 250 miles of U.S. airspace. We’ll see how long that lasts.

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avatar Madaline Fluhr May 18, 2012 at 6:46 am

Very funny, Suzanne. It’s about midnite here in Milpitas and what am I doing reading your blog when I have to sub tomorrow a.m.?? You should submit this one to a magazine or newspaper…it deserves a wider readership! It’s funny and topical….

Safe travels. Did you get my card?

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer May 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Thanks, Kiddo. Yes! I did get your card…and office supplies. My favorite presents. I am not being sarcastic. Staples is my favorite store.

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avatar Sam May 23, 2012 at 6:44 pm

When I read your title I initially had no idea where the issue was going to be. I initially thought your take might be on safety, but that didn’t really seem to make sense. Don’t know why I didn’t think about the flying experience… But I totally agree; sitting next to someone yapping away on a cell phone would be infuriating. I really can’t imagine this working for them unless they carefully regulate it somehow; cell phone and no cell phone sections?

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer May 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Thanks for your comment. There will be a safety issue if people get too agitated about their seatmate carrying the same type of oblivious cell phone conversations I’ve heard on other modes of public transportation. How soon before we see some cell phone induced air rage?

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avatar Roz Warren June 5, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I will be tempted to grab my neighbors cell, march down the aisle to the toilet and flush. Thank God for Amtrak’s quiet car.

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer June 6, 2012 at 7:34 am

Roz, unfortunately, there would probably be a U.S. Marshall waiting for your plane and they would be there to arrest you, not the person whose cell phone you flushed—even if they deserved to have it flushed.

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avatar Eileen Williams June 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Wow–the recycled air in planes will now get a major dose of more hot air to add to the mix. If silence is golden, then those doggone cellphones are giving each of us a “tin ear.” ENOUGH ALREADY!

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Suzanne Fluhr Just One Boomer June 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm

We just finished 5 flights on a trip to Europe. I just cannot imagine adding clueless cell phone yakkers to the mix of screaming babies and inane chatterers.

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avatar Gaelyn December 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Oh no. Can’t we get away from the phone at least one in a while. I really don’t relish the idea of the person crammed next to me in flight to jabber away on their cell. Especially as I usually travel at night and try to sleep.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) December 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I really can’t imagine it.

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avatar Patti December 2, 2013 at 12:28 am

I hate to fly – I see it as a necessary evil to get me where I want/need to be and because I do not enjoy the experience I am pretty impatient about being stuck in a flying cylinder. It’s like the kid who keeps kicking the back of your seat, or the person in front of you who insists on fully reclining his/her seat from the second they sit until the plane lands. And as much as I love children I don’t want to hear a whiny child for 5 hours. Add in some loud-talking idiotic conversation on a cell phone and I think there will be a new phenomenon – you’ve heard of road rage? How about air rage?

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) December 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Flight attendants are adamantly opposed precisely because they see inconsiderate cell phone yakkers as another cause for high altitude stress.

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avatar Leyla Giray December 4, 2013 at 11:29 am

This is bad news. I’m also writing about this – the more of us raise our voices, the better. I will NOT fly with them. Ever. If they decide to implement this…

I was irritated by a SINGLE yakker on a train last week – so I changed cars. ONE. What about 100 talking together?

No way. I’m getting upset just thinking about it!! The incredible stress of non-yakking passengers and flight attendants – it’s mindbending. If we lived in a courteous society, I might consider it, with quick, hushed and urgent words whispered rapidly into a cupped hand. But adding to the public rudeness that already disregards anyone that’s not ‘me’? NO. Thank you.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr December 4, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Leyla—Eloquently stated. The idea really is mind blowing.

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avatar Jerome Shaw December 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I think it is a horrible idea to let people talk unrestricted on their cell phones during flights. I thought the airline industry had already done everything possible to make air travel annoying and uncomfortable.

I was wrong.

If the airlines want to add one more fee to their unbundled ticket structure an inflight cell phone use fee is in order. This is one fee that might meet with a higher rate of approval than charging for a can of Coke or fees for carryon and checked baggage.

Unfortunately, I am afraid inflight cell phone calls are coming to USA airspace very soon.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr December 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Jerome, I soooo hope you are wrong.

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avatar Larissa December 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I do NOT want to hear someone bitch about their boyfriend, mother-in-law or customer service department on a flight.

I would be okay if they limited it to texting, since I wouldn’t have to hear it.

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avatar Donna Hull December 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

Texting would be okay but I sure don’t want to listen to hundreds of conversations going on. How many people are on that plane? It’s a shame that Virgin is allowing it because I think that they are a very good airline.

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