WASHINGTON — Cell phone calls on airplanes in flight are not only unsafe, they're obnoxious and they should be permanently banned, according to some members of Congress.
House members, most of whom board airplanes almost every week, traded horror stories Thursday about their worst experiences with annoying fellow passengers who talk loudly on cell phones before takeoff and after landing. One lawmaker said his wife sat next to a woman who loudly discussed her sex life on the phone.
Another House member topped that with the passenger sitting him behind on one flight who got a "dear John" phone call from either his wife or sweetheart just before takeoff. The begging and pleading was just terrible to listen to, he said. Finally, with the plane ready to take off, a flight attendant had to threaten to have U.S. Marshals drag the man off the plane before he finally put his phone away.
A third House member raised the specter of national security, saying she'd witnessed one man use his cell phone camera to take pictures of sensitive parts of the airplane.
With that, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved by voice vote a bill that would make the current Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communication Commission ban on cell phone use during flight permanent.
The committee's action comes as the European Union is moving to allow airline passengers to talk on their cell phones during flight. Some U.S. airlines are experimenting with in-flight Internet access. And some lawmakers worry that domestic airlines might try to get the cell phone ban lifted so they can charge passengers extra to sit in no-phone sections.
"I do believe this is important that we don't make what is already a crowded and difficult environment for the traveling public and flight attendants" worse by allowing cell phone use in-flight, said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., sponsor of the Halting Airplane Noise to Give Us Peace (HANG UP) Act.
But Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said there are a lot of annoying things on airplanes, including children with dirty diapers and noisy MP3 players, but that doesn't mean they should be banned.
"You are trying to legislate courtesy, folks, and that just doesn't work," Mica said.