As you can well imagine, the IFExpress offices has been awash with discussions about the state of inflight telephony affairs in the US and yes, we have tested some thoughts on PR types in our industry… those who are connected to companies that stand to benefit financially from the calling possibilities and those who are not. Basically, the division about the applicability of inflight cell usage in the US is where you would expect it – those who benefit like the idea and those who don’t – don’t. If they don’t benefit they tend to take the stance: “Flying is bad enough today, why make it worse?” Or, they don’t care. The answer is probably somewhere in between.

In a recent discussion, Our IFExpress Editor came up with a few ideas you might like to think about. “For a liberal democracy, this seems like a no brainer – but it definitely is not! The referenced case studies in other countries seem to make it a slam-dunk. But in the US, there is seemingly an overt, nasty dislike of the cell phone (voice inflight), possibly by travelers who obviously have had enough of the harried flight experience and do not want one more negative issue. Perhaps we should consider some of the issues and work this problem out logically if there is to be any resolution; however, at present there seems to be no clear-cut answer.”

  1. Airlines should surely do a test to see if the perceived issue is real, and note, that if the test is public there will be a lot of press attention.
  2. Asking for constructive solutions such as, passenger cell phone seating, may have value. Feedback is the key to this no-win situation.
  3. If you add “one more issue” to an uncomfortable situation you will not win; however, what about adding a good one at the same time? Some ideas are:  paying all passengers on a flight that has cell telephony by reducing charges elsewhere (baggage, free drinks, etc.) after all this is the US and money talks; publishing any good experiences (if there are any) during a testing situation; how about seating cell talkers on one side or possibly in a ‘worse’ seating location on the aircraft (Yes, that is the price one must pay). If money is a US driver, how about making the usage price high enough to discourage long talking (this one won’t be popular with the service providers) or at least to minimize the “Guess where I am calls”.
  4. Has anyone proposed a plan to suggest the type of equipment passengers could use to minimize the impact of travelers using their cell phones inflight, such as noise canceling headphones and headset/earphone(s) with built in microphones? While this may be impractical now there may be an eventual hardware solution. We seem to remember international planes equipped with older IFE handsets that had the satellite phone hardware at the seat built into a game controller – those devices and their attendant social issues never seem to have surfaced.
  5. While upper classes (Business & First) may be a good place to start cell voice implementation because of the passenger interspatial distance; the class/price perception may not permit it. At the same time, a cell phone usage permission only in coach may be considered a penalty for a lower priced ticket, which leads us to believe the following: A.) The airlines have to give up something to accommodate cell phone usage on flights like baggage fees or ticket price (Then why have it, you might correctly ask?), B.) There needs to be a way to accommodate the need to talk on the phone in the air BUT there also needs to be a way to prevent the mis-users from further degrading the flying experience, C.) If cell usage is permitted in the United States an aggressive public relations campaign will be mandatory, emphasizing positive scenarios where cell phone usage has benefited those onboard (think life saving advice from the ground) or a positive feedback has been received from travelers who have needed the service en route and communicated that message to the airline (in writing). One thing is for certain; if voice calls are allowed the service will most assuredly experience some extreme growing pains on this continent.

Lastly, since there is legislation afoot in the US to prohibit in-flight calling, we will all have to see if cooler heads prevail but until then, keep texting because you can!

If you are going to CES in Las Vegas (Jan. 7 – 10, 2014) you don’t want to miss the panel discussion on January 9, 2014, 10-11 a.m. LVCC, North Hall N254 entitled “Change is in the Air: New Policies for Using Consumer Electronics on Airplanes” an APEX/CES partnership event. Here is the description: Following an advisory committee’s report, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that airlines can safely expand the use of portable electronic devices during all phases of flight. How has this decision been implemented and what should passengers expect when they travel this year? Does this new policy create new market opportunities for CE companies? How are various stakeholder groups, including policymakers, responding? Is this a catch-up policy for the United States or a new example for other regions to follow? Fasten your seatbelts and join this session to hear the latest on this popular topic.” Panelists include: Bill de Groh, Chairman, Aircraft Design and Operations Group, Air Line Pilots Association, International Kirk Thornburg, Managing Director, Engineering, Quality, Technology & Training, Delta Air Lines, Julius Knapp, Chief of Office of Engineering and Technology, FCC, Ian Dawkins, CEO, OnAir, Timothy Shaver, Branch Manager, Avionics Maintenance Branch, Federal Aviation Administration, Chuck Cook, Manager, Fleet Programs and Technology, JetBlue Airways. And you can bet there will be a push for in-flight telephony but we suspect if they open the floor for comments/questions there will be some very divided opinions on the topic!

According to MSNBC, the TSA is going to increase your US trip by $5.60 next year. Meaningless travel caresses now have a price!

In case you were wondering about historic IFE, you might want to bet your drinking partners when the first in-flight movie was shown – It was in 1925 during a London/Paris flight on Imperial Airways. The Guinness record book claims that it starred Wallace Beery (apropos last name) and was silent… the movie, not the flight!

You probably have the Google Search app on your iPad or iPhone or Android device because it just works… very well. The search now contains Google Now and if you opt in (It’s on the opening page of Google Search – just swipe up) your will find that the Google folks have integrated the search capability into your life with notifications, flight information and reminders, arrival notifications, location oriented restaurants, theaters (and whatever), not to mention event items that you searched for but might have forgotten. It’s like the smart friend you never had in school because they weren’t cool!

Lastly, if you forgot to get some Christmas cards, this one is interactive. Send if you choose, but if you are not a fan of “cute” you might want to skip this one!