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Less than a year ago, the FCC floated the idea of allowing cell phone use in-flight, a movement that most, including us, think would be a terrible, terrible decision. This week, the Association of Flight Attendants, an organization that represents about 60,000 flight attendants working across 19 carriers, confirmed that it too thinks allowing passengers to use cell phones in midair would be absolutely insane.
Here's an update on the situation: This week, a bipartisan group of 77 House Representatives sent a letter to the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Communications Commission that expressed their concerns over the safety and security issues in-flight cell phone use would bring up.
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America's Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, created a system of government with multiple checks and balances. The idea was to prevent populist excesses and to slow down change, just in case lawmakers got carried away with a seemingly good idea and accidentally - in their own zeal - made the world a worse place to live. This is what they were talking about.
It took literally two years for the FAA to move from thinking about letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate, to writing a proposal letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate, to actually letting travelers use electronics gate-to-gate. This was not exactly a rush across the finish line, in other words.
But now that there's some momentum, apparently the federal government - this time the FCC - thinks that everything involving flying and electronics should be up for grabs. Yesterday the agency floated the idea of letting passengers use cell phones above 10,000 feet.
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A year and a half ago the FAA disclosed that agency officials were maybe thinking about relaxing the rules that ban fliers from using electronics during takeoffs and landings. Six months after that, they got around to actually starting to think about it. Six months after that, the FCC asked them what the hell was taking so long.
And now, six months after that, we come to this morning's Wall Street Journal story about how a panel has written a draft proposal suggesting that the FAA should consider permitting so-called "gate-to-gate electronics use." Except not for cell phones. And except "details are still being debated by the group and inside the FAA and could change." And except the FAA can't make a decision until the draft proposal becomes a final proposal.
To think, there are people out there who suggest government bureaucrats are inefficient.
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We were going to spin an entire post out of a throwaway line published in The Hill last week, where the journalist dropped in a half-sentence about how "most passengers" want to use cell phones in the air. Polls have over and over again shown the exact opposite, with almost the only exception being a Fly.com poll that seemed more about publishing a press release than figuring out what people believe. But we're not sure it's fair to inflict our travel-journalist-nerd-bravado on you guys just because we can.
So instead we're going to point out what is true in that Hill story, which is that the FCC is pushing the FAA to permit more in-flight electronics use.