Commentary

Saunders: Little knives and loud talkers on planes? Yeah, this won't end well

bsaunders@newsobserver.comMarch 11, 2013 

Gee, what could possibly go wrong with this?

At the same time the FCC is requesting that airlines ease up on restricting the use of cell phones, the TSA is fixing to relax rules so we can carry knives onto planes.

Little ones, but knives all the same. And golf clubs. As if we airline passengers aren’t already irritated enough after being poked, probed, herded and surcharged up the departure gate before we even get onto the plane. Then, once there, we’re jostled, squeezed into ever-smaller seats and bumped by unapologetic flight attendants if our shoulder extends one millimeter beyond the seat back.

Hmmm. What could make that experience even more delightful?

Cell phones, Kindles and iPads. Yippee ki-yea!

I called the FCC on Monday to find out if, when and why the cell phone ban might be lifted – and was told to call the FAA.

I did, but FAA spokesman Les Dorr told me it is actually the FCC’s call. “Why then,” I asked Dorr, “did the FCC tell me to call y’all?”

“Because they don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. He told me to call them back, “and if they tell you it’s the FAA’s decision, tell them about how in 2004 they proposed rescinding the in-flight cell phone ban and received overwhelmingly negative responses.”

Dorr said, “No one has really tried to show that (all the electronic devices) can be safely used during all phases of the flight. ... (Airlines) follow our guidance, which says that during the critical stages of flight – takeoff and landing – below 10,000 feet, then you’ve got to turn everything off.

“The reason for that is, if there’s even a possibility of interference” they want to eliminate it, Dorr said.

Flight attendant outrage

Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, said that union’s petition – www.NoKnivesonPlanes.com – has more than 20,000 signatures protesting the change. An AFA news release she sent to me stated “Flight Attendants are outraged. We are the last line of defense in aviation security and time does not change the fact that we were among the first to die in a war we didn’t know we were fighting on September 11, 2001. ... There is no excuse for this.”

Amen, sister.

Staying connected

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a published letter to the FAA in December, wrote that mobile devices “empower people to stay informed and connected with friends and family, and they enable both large and small businesses to be more productive and efficient, helping drive economic growth and boost U.S. competitiveness.”

Huh? Sure, cell phones and other devices allow us to stay connected, but who said that’s a good thing? Don’t you ever want to be unconnected?

As for Genachowski’s convoluted contention that cell phone use at 35,000 feet is essential to business success, here’s the deal: if a two-hour flight without phone or texting can sink a business, it’s already sunk.

Genachowski said the current ban doesn’t apply to voice communication anyway. But even the incessant clack clack of keys texting messages can rub raw your last nerve at such close quarters. Besides, once you ease restrictions on texting, it won’t be long before LOL-ing and ROFLMAO-ing becomes actual laughing out loud and ROFLMAO.

After that, flights becoming interminable gabfests is inevitable.

“Honey, guess where I am? Flying over Dubuque. No, really. I’m in the air right now. Ask this man sitting next to me if I’m lyin’ about flyin.’ Uh, nevermind. Dude’s got a knife. ’Bye, honey.”

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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