Tell Me It's a Lie: Cell Phones Coming to Airplanes

Illustration for article titled Tell Me It's a Lie: Cell Phones Coming to Airplanes

The New York Times gives us two horrific cell phone stories in a single day. First, an airline based in Dubai has apparently done its customers the "service" of enabling cell phone usage on one of its Boeing 777s by outfitting it with a satellite setup. The horrifying part is that approval for such madness is quickly clearing regulatory hurtles around the world, particularly in Europe and Asia. (I'd like to know who the hell they interviewed that had a "positive view" of in-flight calling.)


For once, I'm glad the FCC is painfully slow at accomplishing anything. Fortunately, if it was set to arrive here anytime soon, the base stations are pretty weak, only able to handle at most six calls at a time. To top it off, the price of making those calls — at $3 to $3.50 a minute — should deter the average moron from calling everyone in their phonebook while you try to drown out the screaming baby behind you with an episode of Metalocalypse on your laptop.

The second story isn't so much horrifying as it annoying, in that once again we get slighted on cool cell phone technology. Basically, some airports in Japan and one in Berlin are trying out a new system to let you check in with your cell phone, skipping some of the hassle of catching a flight. The Japan program only applies to domestic flights, while the Air Berlin version only works if you don't have any bags to check on the Hannover-Munich route, limiting its usefulness. Moreover, you still have to wait in line to get felt up with everybody else, so you don't get to magically warp to your flight gate, but I suppose catching any kind of break at the airport is something most people would find some relief in.

It's also worth keeping in mind that this is just the beginning of the imminent explosive growth in "touch to access" systems, which are on the verge of truly breaking out in Europe. It'll be a while before the proper infrastructure is beyond rudimentary here, though, depending on how much weight Wal-Mart throws into the RFID initiative.

Gulf Airline to Offer Cellphone Service, With Others in Line [NYT]
At Some Airports, Cellphones Can Check In Passengers [NYT]




You don't have to be using the cellphone for it to interfere with other electrical devices. Merely turning it on presents the potential, regardless of whether it's trying to identify itself to the ground or to an onboard satellite link. So even if 295 people are in the queue to be connected, you still have the potential for 300 devices interfering with something on the aircraft.

Besides, your "poor friend" can get more accurate flight information on the ground than you could tell him from the air. Unless you're the pilot.