The Associated Press‘ Scott Mayerowitz writes about how a ‘delay’ actually constitutes (slow) progress in eliminating bans on passenger use of electronics below 10,000 feet.
An industry-labor advisory committee was supposed to make recommendations next month to the Federal Aviation Administration on easing the restrictions. But the agency said in a statement Friday the deadline has been extended to September because committee members asked for extra time to finish assessing whether it is safe to lift restrictions.
… “It’s good to see the FAA may be on the verge of acknowledging what the traveling public has suspected for years — that current rules are arbitrary and lack real justification,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., one of Congress’ more outspoken critics of the restrictions, said in a statement. She contends that unless scientific evidence can be presented to justify the restrictions, they should be lifted.
There seems to be universal disdain for the idea of letting people use their cell phones to make calls on board, though.
“I just hope they do the sensible thing and don’t allow people to talk on their cellphones during flight,” added [Edward] Pizzarello, who flies 150,000 to 200,000 miles a year. “There are plenty of people that don’t have the social skills necessary to make a phone call on a plane without annoying the people around them. Some things are better left alone.”
But since it isn’t the FCC’s rules that are under review, there’s little chance we’ll see voice calls on a plane any time soon. And voice of internet won’t emerge, either. Even though Amtrak (not usually an innovator!) manages to successfully offer both cell phone use and quiet cars, and airlines offered seatback phones for years.
And many analysts downplay the importance of liberalizing rules, as though it’s only about letting me read my e-book instead of carrying around a paperback.
Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Hudson Crossing, said airlines would only profit if the FAA also amended the rules to allow passengers to access the internet earlier — something that is not being suggested.
“Unless the FAA is considering relaxing the rules on Wi-Fi access, this is not about making money. This is about keeping the passenger entertained,” he said.
I much like Henry but he’s wrong to trivialize the issue as keeping entertained. Just like with long or unpredictable screening processes, limiting communications/electronics in the sky is about productivity and ultimately economic growth. It’s stuff that actually matters, when compounded over several years and across the economy.