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“Halo, ya, the plane flying now ar…”

Airline passengers

I love travelling. I like going to see new places, experience new cultures. But I absolutely loathe flying. All the fuss about turning up at least 2 hours early at the airport, the check-in queue, the security checks, the queue to get to your seat, the babies crying, and the list goes on and on and on. Why do we put ourselves through this kind of torture? Is the destination even worth it?

Well, if you think the list is bad, you can add another ‘Things you don’t look forward to when flying’ onto it. Last Monday, the European Commission had introduced a new rule regarding mobile phone usage on the aircraft while it is airborne. Yes, you heard it right. They had finally relented and said ‘Yes!’ to passengers who wants to use their mobile phones during the flight.

Mobile phone approved

Before this new regulation was approved, mobile phones were strict ‘No-no’ as soon as the passengers board the plane. Mobile phones were prohibited from being used on any flights, for fears that it could interrupt the navigation system and land the plane in a technical fault. And unfortunately for me, I vaguely remember a movie in which the navigation system on the plane was disrupted by a mobile phone signal. Paranoia, I know.

Anyways, for the new regulations to work, the European Commission reported that the passengers’ phones will be connected to the network through an on-board system (called the Pico cell). The calls are not allowed to be connected to the ground towers directly. Instead, the on-board system will route the calls to the satellite and in turn the satellite will then send the signal to the ground towers. Calls are also only allowed when the plane is at the height of at least 3000 metres. The calls will also be charged at International Roaming rates and for now, only 2G calls will be supported.

One good news though (at least for now), the European Commission is only implementing the rule over the European sky, and not worldwide, yet. Thank goodness for that! The European Commission has also given the 27 EU countries 6 months to comply with the new regulations.

European Commission

One of the European airlines, Ryanair, has apparently agreed to abide to the regulations and knowing Ryanair (they are a budget airline like AirAsia but probably 100 times bigger and more successful than AirAsia), they will probably charge the passengers for using their own mobile phones on the flight. In mid-air, nothing is free with Ryanair.

With the new regulation in force, the airlines will eventually face a few problems. The first one will be the tranquillity (if you don’t count crying babies) during the flight, especially long-haul flights. I doubt that the person sitting next to a chatterbox would want to hear his next-seat neighbour’s voice for the entire flight. Will they introduce a quiet zone for those who wish to sleep the entire journey? It will be just like the smoking and non-smoking sections in the restaurant.

Then there’s the cost of the call. Should it be charged at International Roaming rate? And what rate will that be? Which country? Everyone wants to make a profit in this; the airline, the network provider, the country, so no doubt the calls will be much more expensive than a normal International Roaming call. Will this put passengers off making the call? I sure hope so, I have enough of aerophobia to last me a life time of flying. I do not need to worry about mobile phones bringing down the plane.

I really do not know why people would want to talk on their mobile phones during the flight. What could be so important that they cannot wait to make the call until the aircraft has landed on the runway and they are in the terminal building? Then there are those bozos that do not have the need to make a call but will do so just because it is a new thing. I can almost hear him now, “Yeah, they allow us to use mobile phones in the sky now.” For all we know, this could be another gimmick by the telecommunication operators trying to make more money by introducing this feature on the plane. In fact, I’m pretty sure that is the case.

The implementation of this regulation would probably be made in June 2008. If all goes well, the rest of the world would follow in Europe’s footsteps. Next, we probably would have power plugs on our arm rest for charging our mobile phones. And Ryanair will charge us GBP5.00 for 5 minutes of charging time. Or, even better yet, Internet in the sky! Now, for that, I wouldn’t mind flying.

Read the full article here:
The Horror at 37,000 Feet: EU Allows In-Flight Cell Phone Use.