One of the more frustrating things about flights these days is the fact that, for the whole of the flight, you are disconnected from the rest of the world whilst you are on the plane, at least with regards to your mobile/smartphone – you cannot check emails, you can’t call someone to pick you up at the airport and you can’t surf the web.
You have never been able to use mobile phones on planes, and there are a few good reasons why not — imagine sitting next to an excitable businessman on a 12 hour trans-Atlantic flight as he talks continuously on his phone, fighting the sound of the engines all the time. But now British Airways has released plans to allow mobile phone use on planes which could dramatically change the nature of your flight.
But before we investigate further let me first clear up a myth that many of my colleagues seemed to hold to be true regarding the way in which mobile phone signals interfere with plane equipment. Basically they don’t. Not only do planes have their own frequency range reserved for their own specific communication purposes (121.5MHz is what is used for emergencies, for those of you into your electromagnetic radiation!) but they also come into contact with mobile phone signals from the surface of the earth anyway.
In fact there are only two main reasons why, as of yet, phone use has not been allowed on planes: one of which is the aforementioned annoyance and the second is security. Given the somewhat precarious position of being suspended in mid air at 35,000 feet it is vitally important that the crew can get the instant attention of the passengers in the case of an emergency, and their ability to instantly convey information may be hampered is someone is concentrating on a phone call.
So why are BA allowing phones then? Well the plans are to allow phone use, but not calls which would allow passengers to remain connected, but would eliminate the problem of passenger disturbance or slackened security.
The scheme will begin at some point in the fourth quarter of this year, and will originally only be available on flights from London City airport to JFK in New York (and presumably back) in business class. This is obviously designed to affect the minimum number of people (but to encourage people to opt for the more expensive business class) and will be reviewed to see how it is affecting the ‘passenger experience’.
“There are no plans for voice calls at the moment, but we will listen to feedback from passengers… the customer is in charge.” a BA spokesperson said.
Fortunately there are no plans for chat but the “customer is in charge” sounds not only overly PR friendly but also a little ominous — although you may think that the peace and quiet is nice the people who fill in the forms may not and it may just be a matter of time before the airlines give in to the masses of impatient businessmen. Hopefully not, and apart from that possibility this is a step in the right direction and will hopefully make you flights a little more productive.
Source – TechRadar