EU Allows Cell-Phones in Flight

April 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

The inability to use one’s cellular phone during flights in most parts of the world has gotten more than one person’s hackles up. As air hostesses and cell-phone holders battle it out almost daily on flights in some countries, the EU (European Union) gets set to legalize the use of cellular phones in flight in Europe.

EU officials announced the new in-flight cellular-usage guidelines in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. It would seem that the new rules will allow travelers to stay in touch with friends, family and work-associates back home from as early as this summer. The EU said that is expected several Europe-based airlines to launch services that allowed the use of cell phones in the sky. This would make Europe the first region in the world to scrap bans on the in-flight use of cellular phones.

Up until this point, the main arguments against the in-flight use of cellular phones are that they can interfere with flight instruments or heighten terrorist risks. However the EU insisted that not only would the new European GSM technology used in aircraft not be affected by the calls since it has been thoroughly tested to this effect, but that safeguards against terrorism will be put into place to counteract this problem too. The officials said that the security risk would be minimized because the phones used in-flight would not connect directly to the ground but would first link up to satellite via an onboard base station before the signal is able to return to ground networks. This gives the captain the ability to switch off the onboard cellular network at any time that he deems this to be necessary for the safety of the passengers. For safety reasons the use of cellular phones will still not be permitted during takeoff and landing or during turbulence. Mobile phones will be permitted as soon as the aircraft reaches 10 000 feet, which is the same time when passengers are allowed to use laptops, portable music players and other electronic devices.

There is one problem that possibly hasn’t been accounted for – noisy passengers. Being stuck next to an annoying chatterbox at 30 000 feet could definitely put a damper on anyone’s flight – especially when flying long-distance at night. While it seems that this annoyance hasn’t been accounted for, at least one airline has already launched a trial version of the in-flight phone service. Since the new phone service requires rerouting and initial investments, there will likely be an increase in costs related to in-flight cellular calls.

While many countries are welcoming the change or already setting it in motion, it would seem that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration still has no immediate plans to remove the current ban on in-flight cellular phone usage.

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