If a bipartisan consensus can be found anywhere on the Hill right now, it’s that neither party’s lawmakers appear to want to hear passengers yakking in the plane seat next to theirs.
In fact, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) vowed yesterday to introduce legislation to stop the Federal Communications Commission from allowing cell phone conversations on airplanes.
“Imagine two million passengers, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts,” Alexander said. “The Transportation Security Administration would have to hire three times as many air marshals to deal with the fistfights.”
“Stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies from those who wander around shouting personal details into a microphone: babbling about last night’s love life, bathroom plans, next week’s schedule, orders to an assistant, arguments with spouses. Imagine this noise while you travel, restrained by your seatbelt, unable to escape,” he continued.
“The FCC commissioners will earn the gratitude of the two million Americans who fly each day by deciding: text messages, yes; conversations, no.”
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) sent a letter Friday to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler arguing that allowing cell phone use would be a safety issue and potentially increase incidents of “air rage.”
He noted that the Association of Flight Attendants has come out against the proposed change on the ground that in-flight phone calls would be “disruptive and distracting.”
“Putting the nuisance factor aside, I’m concerned this could present a serious flight-safety issue,” Begich said. “We need people to be paying attention to cockpit announcements and the flight attendants, not talking on the phone. And we certainly don’t need any more potential causes for the growing phenomenon of ‘air rage.’ The thought of having a constant cellphone yammering on every flight makes my head hurt.”
A YouGov/Huffington Post poll conducted over the weekend found 31 percent of respondents believing that people should be able to talk on their phones during flight, while 49 percent were opposed.
A solid majority, 63 percent, believe text messaging in-flight should be allowed.