While the long arc of air travel undoubtably bends toward misery, passengers were just offered a brief glimmer of hope.
The Federal Communications Commission decided on April 10 to reverse a 2013 proposal that would have allowed cellphone use mid-flight.
That’s right, unbeknownst to many, we were spiraling toward a future where the bro next to you could pick up his phone in the middle of a flight and call his mom, boss, bookie, or whoever. Thankfully, that tragedy has been narrowly averted—the only loud conversations you’ll be forcibly subjected to are the ones involving “re-accommodating” passengers.
Well, except for all the babies and fighting couples, of course.
The Washington Post reports that the proposal would have allowed cellphone use when a plane reached cruising altitude.
While off-the-shelf smartphones might have trouble working at that height, airlines could have tried to make technical accommodations to allow phone calls—had the rule not gone down in flames.
And we should all let out a mighty sigh of relief that it did. Imagine a world where sitting in a plane’s “no-call section” was a premium add-on. Ugh.
So who do we have to thank for saving us from this nightmare? In a rare example of government officials having our back, FCC chairman Ajit Pai shut the entire thing down.
“I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest,” Pai wrote in a statement. “Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”
Right-thinking passengers weren’t the only ones opposed. Flight attendants reportedly also objected to cellphone calls on planes for reasons involving possible tension between flyers (which: yeah).
“I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes,” Pai noted.
What with decreased legroom, increased fees, and the ever-present likelihood that you’ll be beaten and dragged off a United flight, air travel these days is decidedly lacking in basic amenities. However, the FCC’s decision means that not having to listen to a fellow passenger scream “can you hear me” over and over again is a comfort we all get to luxuriate in.
It’s one small bright spot on an increasingly crowded and overpriced horizon, but we’ll take what we can get.