Opinion: Hey, Can I Now Use My Phone On Planes?

Opinion: Hey, Can I Now Use My Phone On Planes?

I’ve travelled 29,000km on aeroplanes this year. That’s 27 flights. And on each of those 27 takeoffs and 27 landings, a hungover flight attendant has asked me and my fellow travellers to turn off our phones. I didn’t, not once. And you know what? I didn’t die. All 27 planes found the runway, none of their engines sputtered out.

We didn’t survive because we were lucky. We made it across those 29,000km unscathed because fear of mobile phones crashing aeroplanes in 2012 is like being afraid of warlocks or a Wham! reunion. It’s not a real thing. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the original phones-on-planes fearmonger, even said so today point blank. So why is the FAA is the only organisation in the entire goddamn civilised world that won’t admit it?

Do you know why the anti-mobile phone crusade even exists on planes? Seriously though, you’ll love it. Way back in 1991, the FCC and US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) both banned mobile phones from being turned on in-flight because back then mobile phones were pineapple-sized wind-up machines that nobody understood and that were therefore terrifying by default. And when they finally got around to actually studying mobile phones on planes, in 1992, guess what? They found nothing. Nada. It was fine because of course it was it’s just a phone.

A normal human person, upon finding out that something he feared was in fact harmless, would act on that knowledge! This is why we use fire for candles cooking instead of damning it as an agent of a vengeful god. Instead, the FAA and FCC both decided that we should leave our phones and laptops anyway just in case, which is like not getting a haircut just in case scissors are really just sentient, brain-starved steel fingernails.

I’ll spare you the rest of the history lesson since, surprise, it’s just the same bullshit on repeat for 20 years. But it’s probably worth pointing out, just for fun, that the only recorded instance of a phone actually being harmful to a flight is a 2009 incident when a first officer forgot to put his phone on vibrate and got distracted by the ringtone (Ke$ha, probs?). Seriously! That’s it. If you’re going to ban something just ban that guy.

This is so dumb and so bad obviously, but worse than dumb and bad it’s embarrassing. Ever since Obamacare passed, using phones in-flight is literally the last thing the rest of the civilized world can hold over our heads. As of last year, there were 139 countries that don’t restrict in-flight phone use at all. And I’m pretty sure if Luxembourg had a higher crash rate than the rest of the world, we’d have heard about it by now.

Look, the game is up. The FCC was the FAA’s last friend in this fight, and even they’ve seen the light. But even still, all the FAA can do is tease a new committee and a fresh look and oh my god they do this every six years and nothing ever changes.

This time, it has to change. No committees, no fresh looks. Just admit that the many, many looks you’ve already taken don’t prove a single thing and let us use our phones like the entire rest of the world does. It’s one thing to fear what we don’t understand. But straight-up refusing to understand it is an embarrassment.