In full flight, online
Some time ago I was sitting in a plane about to take off on a short regional flight. The doors had been closed and the cabin crew were making the usual safety announcements. I imagine they were the usual ones, though if I am honest I have to admit I’ve kind of stopped listening to these. In any case, on this occasion my attention was focused on my neighbour. He was holding his mobile phone, and turning it nervously around in his hand. It was visibly not switched off. He saw me looking and said, ‘I’m waiting for a call’. I pointed out to him that he was supposed to have switched it off. He mumbled something unintelligible and continued fidgeting with the (still powered on) phone. As the plain taxied to the runway, he continued doing this, hiding it whenever he thought he would be seen by a member of the crew, and then taking it out again.
I have on the whole become sceptical whether having the phone on can really be a safety issue. If it were, cabin attendants would surely demand to see each phone to check it was off, or more more likely still we wouldn’t be allowed take it in the cabin. But nevertheless, I was astounded at my neighbour, who continued to fidget with the phone until long after take-off, at which point I lost interest.
A year or so ago it looked as if my anxious neighbour might be getting his way. Irish airline Ryanair announced it was introducing inflight mobile phone calls. I only experienced it on one flight, on which we were told that mobile phones could be used after take-off. My neighbour on this flight duly took out his phone to see whether it worked. The phone, once powered on, did indeed register some sort of network signal, but when he tried calling a number apparently absolutely nothing happened. One or two others were trying (and experiencing) something similar, but most passengers just ignored the cabin crew’s invitation to make a call. So does this mean that even the more fanatical mobile phone addicts find there is a limit to the thing? At any rate I never again was on a flight where the facility (if it was that) was available.
My grandmother used to say that it is only when we stop talking that we realise we have nothing to say. And if we stay silent long enough, we can begin to communicate properly. And so I can say to any other airline considering this that mobile services in the air will not entice me one little bit. Wireless internet, now that’s another matter. After all, I have standards. Double standards.