By Akane Otani
USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent

That announcement at the start of every flight to turn off all electronic devices may soon be a thing of the past.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to consider lifting its ban on using cell phones during flights, triggering responses from travelers, government officials and flight attendants — who say the move would enable chatty flyers to bother disturb on board.

While the FCC says the ban — originally implemented out of safety concerns — is technologically irrelevant today, opponents of lifting the law are adamant that allowing phone calls on flights would be unfair to passengers.

In This Story:

  • Boston University
  • Cornell University
  • Northwestern University
  • Quinnipiac University

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An iPhone is plugged into a charging station. College students are divided on whether the ban on using cell phones on flights should be lifted.

Even college students, who have garnered a reputation for being glued to their technology, are unsure of whether the ban should be lifted.

“If passengers are allowed to call on their cell phones, I worry that the calm environment on a plane would be disrupted and that flight attendants would have a more difficult time communicating to passengers and getting their attention,” said Elizabeth Young, a senior at Cornell University.

She is not alone.

In a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 52% of respondents aged 18- to-29 said they oppose the use of cell phones on planes. In comparison, just 39% of respondents in that age group said they would favor lifting the ban.

Young said that, while she would support allowing travelers to text on their phones, she is against lifting the bans on mobile phone calls because it might make an already uncomfortable way to travel even more bothersome.

“Although I fly fairly regularly, riding a plane is not my favorite form of transportation, and I usually prefer to sleep through as much of a flight as possible in a calm environment,” she said.

Manu Rathore, a junior at Cornell University, agreed, saying that, “in a world where everyone is super connected and people check their phone, on average, 110 times a day, allowing texting and phone calls on a flight would change a plane into a loud cafe.”

Other college students disagreed.

In-flight cell phone use would make the travel experience more convenient and allow people to stay in touch with friends and family on the go, they say.

“I’m all for it,” says Dominic Wong, a senior at Northwestern University. “Personally, I use my cell phone up until the moment [the flight attendants] tell you to switch it off.”

Allowing passengers to use their cell phones on flights would not necessarily turn the in-flight experience into a raucous circus, Wong said.

“Just because you can use your cell phone, doesn’t mean everyone will start talking on their phones before the flight takes off. It’s like, for example, when I’m sitting on an airplane and I lower my seat, I try to turn around and make sure the person behind me doesn’t have food on their table. It’s all about etiquette when you’re sharing a small space,” he said.

Kriti Agarwal, a junior at Cornell University, thinks being able to use cell phones on flights would allow people to stay connected with friends and family and plan trips even before they land. It might also ease the boredom of travel, she added.

“Being connected through cell phones on a flight would make the experience less tiresome,” Agarwal said.

There may be an in-flight scenario that ends up pleasing everyone.

Although the FCC may allow passengers to start using cell phones to text, listen to music and use apps, the Department of Transportation is considering placing its own ban on in-flight calls, according to a report by CNN.

“My ideal airplane environment would be kind of like the quiet car on the Amtrak,” said John Liao, a senior at Boston University, who added that he would support a continued ban on in-flight calls.

How do you feel about a being able to make in-flight cell phone calls?

Akane Otani is a senior at Cornell University.



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