This morning Radley Balko noted that electronics manufacturers, phone companies, and consumer groups are trying to stop Congress from codifying the regulatory ban on using cell phones while flying. I always imagined that the ban, like the prohibition on the use of other electronic devices during takeoff and landing, was based on (probably bogus) safety concerns. But that is not the rationale offered by supporters of the new legislation, which also would ban voice-over-Internet communication on flights that offer WiFi access. Although in-flight phone use is legal in 72 countries, USA Today reports, "advocates of the ban, such as Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., say they want to protect fliers from the intrusion of phone calls in one of the last phone-free zones."
In other words, DeFazio imagines he would be annoyed by fellow passengers talking on their cell phones and/or by the calls he currently avoids while flying, so he wants to impose the rule he prefers on the entire country. How about letting airlines decide whether, and under what circumstances, to allow phone use? Some passengers, like DeFazio, might prefer phone-free flights (or sections), while others would welcome the ability to use their phones. Why not let airlines cater to both kinds of customers? If the issue of phone calls on airplanes is resolved the same way as the issue of smoking on airplanes, only the passengers who share Peter DeFazio's tastes and preferences will count.