Banning cell phone use on airliners debate latest act in a summer silly season

Maybe it's the heat of summer, maybe we just need a distraction or maybe anyone associated with the airline industry is just whacked. For example, today we find that as the war between those who think it is their God Given Right to yap on their cell phones whilst sitting in a cramped, expensive and now pillow-less airline seat continues, word from the feds is people are pretty much divided on the subject.

No kidding?!

A study out today said four out of 10 US residents (39.7%) responded that passengers should definitely or probably be allowed to use cell phones if there were no interference issues with aircraft communications systems. Slightly less than half (45.2%) said they definitely or probably should not be used. The remaining 15% said they weren't sure.

The study by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which is part of the Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, found that people age 65 and older more likely to oppose their use than those between 18 and 34. The breakdown of responses in the younger age range shows at least some restraint. That is almost half (47.7%) of respondents between 18 and 34 said passengers should definitely or probably be allowed to use cell phones while fewer than four out of 10 (36.1%) said they definitely or probably should not be used. The remaining 16 % said that they weren't sure.

The report uses data from BTS' annual Omnibus Household Survey conducted in November 2006 and November 2007 of 1,000 nationally representative households in November of 2006 and 2007. The cell phone debate maybe be moot however as a bill that would ban in-flight cellular calls despite emerging technologies that finally make them feasible is headed for the US House of Representatives.

Beyond the cell phone debate, lets not forget that earlier this week we had the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) coming out with laptop bag requirements that said beginning August 16 it will let passengers leave their laptop computers in bags that meet new "checkpoint friendly" standards. The TSA said it has asked manufacturers to design bags that will produce a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing X-ray screening. More than 60 manufacturers responded and 40 submitted prototypes for testing, some of which will be on sale by mid-August, the TSA stated.

The laptop bag requirements are nothing compared to the other big news this week JetBlue Airways has started charging passengers $7 for pillows and blankets on all flights of more than two hours. So now you'll have no place to rest your head while you're NOT using your phone. Oh yeah, and don't get thirsty either because while it may be hot out, you'll need to shell out $2 for bottled water and $1 for soda and coffee on US Airways.

While this odd conglomeration of travel indignities is going on, much more serious problems are getting worse. Government watchdogs said earlier this month that the FAA's highly touted capacity flight demand management policies may help reduce flight delays, but the collective impact of these actions on reducing delay in 2008, especially in the highly congested areas around New York, is limited. A Government Accountability Office report concluded that the FAA's 17 flight delay reduction initiatives-which range from efforts to reduce excessive spacing on final approach before landing to new procedures for handling air traffic during severe weather conditions- could save time but only incrementally over time and in certain situations.

Layer 8 in a box

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