This just in from the Government Bureau of Obviousness: Airplanes don't fall out of the sky any time a passenger flips on a cell phone.
In acknowledgement of this fact, the Federal Communications Commission is finally, after 22 years, thinking about lifting the ban on using cell phones onboard airplanes. On Dec. 12, the FCC will consider lifting the 1991 ban on use of mobile devices, which was first instituted in response to concerns the devices could interfere with signals from ground stations.
Lots of folks see merit in the FCC's move -- not least the airlines. As one expert told USA Today, airlines including Delta Air Lines and United Continental "will charge dearly for the privilege" of being able to talk on board. In lifting the ban, the FCC could well create a new revenue stream for the airlines.
But not everyone is so enthusiastic. Some people question whether the phones will suddenly start crashing planes. Others complain that letting everyone talk on their phones at once will make for noisy flights, or that the cacophony of in-flight callers will drown out important announcements from the pilot.
To which I'd offer this modest solution: Nobody uses phones to actually talk anymore. These days, the kids all text, and they've trained their parents to do likewise. If the FCC wants a reasonable compromise solution, how about we just lift the ban on texting -- and leave the ban on talking in place?
Let the rant begin
There. Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to the real issue. Which is ... seriously? The government wants to improve the flying experience, and the first idea that comes to mind is to have FCC ring up Delta and United, and tell them we've reached cruising altitude and it's OK to turn their electronic devices back on?
If they really want to make our lives easier, lifting the cell-phone ban is the wrong place to start. How about instead, the airlines buddy up with the TSA and make it easier to get certified for pre-check -- as Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) has started doing? How about TSA hires some more agents, and gets those security lines moving faster?
For that matter, how about letting us carry a measly bottle of water on the plane, or letting us keep our doggone shoes on? You want to make flying more enjoyable and less of a hassle? That's how you do it.
P.S. And while you're at it, airlines, cut it out with the ever-shrinking coach seats. (And now you're shrinking the bathrooms, too?)
Seriously, this is getting old.