Rep. Bill Shuster: Cellphone Ban In-Flight Is "Common Sense"

Tuesday, 10 Dec 2013 11:52 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Allowing passengers to talk on cellphones in-flight could result in anarchy in the friendly skies, according to Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Shuster spoke out just as the Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on allowing the use of cellphones during flight.

He is concerned about civility, not safety, The Hill reports.

"For those few hours in the air with 150 other people, it's just common sense that we all keep our personal lives to ourselves and stay off the phone," he said.

Regardless of the FCC's decision, it will ultimately be left up to individual airlines to decide their own policies. The FCC vote follows the Oct. 31 Federal Aviation Administration announcement that airlines can expand the use of all portable electronic devices at all altitudes.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, has been a colorful and vocal critic on the subject. While he lauds the FAA's decision to allow phones and tablets for texting and checking email, being subjected to listening to travelers' personal conversations "restrained by your seatbelt, unable to escape," is a different story.

"Imagine 2 million passengers, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts," Alexander said last week in a statement. "The Transportation Security Administration would have to hire three times as many air marshals to deal with the fistfights."

Alexander and Shuster have both said they would introduce legislation to keep cellphone conversations out of airplane cabins, if necessary.

The 2 million Americans who fly each day would thank the FCC, Alexander said. The FCC, however, is only considering whether cellphones interfere with airplane systems.
Many other countries already allow the use of cellphones in-flight, according to CNN.

Passengers apparently are split on the subject, with a 2012 survey by Delta Air Lines showing that 64 percent of passengers say cellphone conversations in the air would negatively impact their onboard experience.

There were 130 incidents of unruly passengers in 2012, down from a high of 330 in 2004, according to FAA statistics.

The agency's figures do not include security violations; those are handled by the TSA.

Air rage incidents have occurred when passengers are denied alcohol, told they can't smoke or use the bathroom, or even refused to turn off cellphones, which got Alec Baldwin kicked off a flight when he would not quit his online game of "Words with Friends" during takeoff.

A fight broke out on a Ghana-bound United Airlines flight taking off from Washington Dulles in 2011 when a man pummeled a fellow passenger for reclining his seat.

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